Exodus 32: 7-111, 13-14 Timothy 1: 12-17 Luke 15: 1-10
Over the years of a life, whether they are long or brief, God is envisioned in different ways. God is Creator, Almighty, All-Powerful; or God is seen as demanding law giver and judge; or God is easily dismissed as a grey-haired, bearded old man. The revelation of the genuine nature of God and the nature of the relationship with God that is possible was the purpose and goal of the ministry of Jesus among us, whether in the words he spoke, the actions he performed and even in his death on the cross. In a particular way today we gains insight into God through what we have heard in the Scripture that have been read.
In the account from the Book of Exodus, we heard how Moses pleaded with God regarding the people he led, the Israelites. They had made a Golden Calf and had abandoned the God who had saved them from Egypt. Moses makes no excuses for them. He does not try to rationalize their behavior or blame someone else. He appeals directly to the understanding nature of God: You are faithful; You have promised to be true to what you have promised. Despite what this people has done, despite their weaknesses and failings, You are God, not man in the way that You act, in the way that You love. The Lord relented. We are reminded that God is faithful. God is not like us as when we are vengeful and unforgiving. God, as revealed to us in the Scriptures and in the ministry of Jesus. is neither vengeful nor unforgiving if we acknowledge our weakness and sinfulness.
We also heard Saint Paul write to his friend and disciple, Timothy. Paul expresses nothing short of amazement at what has happened in his own life. He had been a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. He had even participated in putting them to death as in the case of Saint Stephen. Now Paul finds himself, as he tells Timothy, not only a follower of Jesus but also a major proclaimer of the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus. He proclaims this message to those who are not even a part of the Jewish tradition even though he himself had been a Pharisee, part of the strictest segment of that tradition. So great was the loving forgiveness of God as it worked in his life. So great, too, is the loving forgiveness of God that is available to all of us. It is so far beyond anything Paul or we, ourselves, could have imagined or expected.
From the Gospel of Saint Luke we heard Jesus tell two well-known parables as examples of God’s mercy, the accounts of the lost sheep and the lost coin. What more powerful imagery can be given to us to describe the relationship which God seeks with us or how we are valued by God? When we have lost or misplaced something valuable and important to us, we know the sense of relief we experience when it is found. If we give it some thought, it almost seems absurd to abandon 99 sheep to look for 1, or to minimize the value of 9 coins to hunt for 1. But the message Jesus seeks to convey to us is to have us understand the boundless extent of God’s love no matter now much any one of us may have failed or continue to fail;. Jesus reveals that forgiveness and reconciliation are always possible.
Taking up the cross of Jesus has been the object of his teaching during this journey from Galilee to Jerusalem that Saint Luke has been describing to us over these past weeks. Perhaps the stories we heard today from Jesus seem like an exaggerations. Perhaps this is purposely so. We are to be encouraged about the value, the importance which each of us possesses. It is the value and importance of seeking to be reconciled with our good and gracious God.