Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; (or Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 51:1-11); 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
“You would not exist if you did not have something to bring to the table of life.” – Herbie Hancock
Today Jesus tells two parables about losing and finding. The first is about one lost sheep, and leaving the other ninety-nine behind, and then having a party when the one is found. The second is about a woman who loses a small coin, and searching the whole house, and throwing a party when it is found. Certainly an important point is expressed in the last verse of the Gospel when Jesus says that there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents (i.e. turns). (Luke 15:7 & 10) However, a more overreaching point is made in the Gospel’s first and second verse (Luke 15:1 & 2). The Pharisees and scribes complain that Jesus eats with sinners. Who else would he eat with? The Pharisees and scribes did not realize that there are no other kinds of people. Even when Jesus ate with society’s big shots he was eating with sinners. Perhaps they needed some mirror therapy before condemning others. The shocking thing for them, however, was that Jesus likes these people that others despise. That is why there is all that searching going on in the two parables. If we look throughout all the Gospels we see that table companionship is extremely important for Jesus. He is always eating with all sorts of people, even those that the establishment loathed and derided. He brings them to the table because he knows that they have something to offer. He knows that we also have something to offer. To have a seat at the table is an image of acceptance and respect. Sure, the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. But what comes first. God first loves, accepts and forgives us so that we may repent, not after we repent. Jesus is bringing everyone to the table. Shame on those churches that tell some people they are not welcome at the table, not welcome to receive communion. But before we judge too quickly let’s examine ourselves. We eat with all kinds of people at church. But how about in our own homes? Our central act of worship is the Eucharist. At the Eucharist we worship by eating, drinking and hugging. Our religion is not one of fear, but one in which we know we are valued. That is why we use the word “Gospel” which means good news. What could be better news? Let’s eat!
Luke 15:2 says that the Pharisees and scribes “complained.” Some other interesting words used to translate the Greek are grumble, murmur, mutter. Its verb tense is the imperfect, indicating ongoing action. This was not just a onetime grumble.
At table a place,
for you and me valued set,
eating and drinking.