Archive for the ‘Luke 15’ Category

God Cares, Part I   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:7-14

Psalm 32

Luke 15:1-10


How blest is he whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin has been remitted.

How blest the man

to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt,

And in whose spirit there is no guile.

But I had become like a potsherd,

my bones had wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night, O Most High,

your hand was oppressive;

I was ravaged, O Shaddai,

as by the drought of summer.

My sin I made known to you,

and did not hide my guilt from you.

I said, “I shall confess, O Most High,

my transgressions, O Yahweh!”

Then you forgave my sinful guilt.

–Psalm 32:1-5, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible (1966)


Acknowledging one’s sins is pat of the process of repentance, or turning away from them.

The key word in the assigned reading from Luke 15 is repentance.  Jesus answers criticisms for welcoming and dining with sinners by telling parables of being lost then found and welcomed.  Sheep were essential to the livelihood of shepherds in verses 3-6, just as the small amount of money in verses 8 and 9 probably constituted the woman’s entire savings.  In each case a penitent sinner is as precious to God as the lost sheep is to the shepherd and the ten silver coins are to the woman.  Heavenly celebration ensues after the return of the newly penitent.  This theme continues in verses 11-32, traditionally the Parable of the Prodigal Son, although the loving father and the dutiful yet resentful older brother are equally compelling characters.

I detect a difference in the portrayal of God in Luke 15 and Exodus 32.  God seeks the lost in two parables in Luke 15 and waits for the return of the penitent in the third parable.  In Exodus 32, however, Moses has to persuade God not to destroy the Israelites.  Granted, they probably did not know the error of their ways, but the God of Luke 15 would have responded differently than the God of Exodus 32.  The God of Luke 15 would have, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (for lack of a better name), waited for them to realize their sins then repent.

In universe, then, did the ten silver coins know that they were lost?  The Prodigal Son came to his senses in time.  And the lost sheep was an especially stupid animal.  Yet all of these were precious in Luke 15.

I acknowledge that both judgment and mercy exist in God.  The balance of them is beyond my purview.  Yet I rely on divine mercy, which I understand to be vast.  That mercy, extended to me, requires much of me.  I am, for example, to act mercifully toward others and to respond gratefully to God.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Principles are easy to state, but coming to understand how best to apply them in daily life is frequently difficult.  A well-meaning person might, out of faithfulness and compassion, act in such a way as to make a bad situation worse accidentally.  The most effective method of helping might not be obvious to one.  What is a person who seeks to apply the Golden Rule properly to do?  May you, O reader, find the proper answers in your circumstances.

May each of us, precious in the sight of God, remain faithful, repent when we depart from the proper path, and function as the most effective agents of divine mercy possible, by grace.





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Salt   1 comment


Above:  A Container of Salt, October 28, 2015

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation from

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 5:1-23

Psalm 1

Luke 14:34-35


Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of then wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

–Psalm 1:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


[Jesus said,] “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away.  Let anyone with ears listen!”

–Luke 14:34-35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Proverbs 5:1-23 is a straight-forward set of advice about why a man should remain infatuated with and faithful to his wife.  The pericope concludes:

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of God;

He surveys his entire course.

The wicked man will be trapped in his iniquities;

He will be caught up in the ropes of his sin.

He will die for lack of discipline,

Infatuated by his great folly.

–Proverbs 5:21-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That fits well with Psalm 1.

Salt both preserves food and adds flavor to it.  Too little salt is bad for a person, as is an excessive amount of it.  Our Lord and Savior’s saying about salt follows a discourse on the cost of discipleship in Luke 14.  The cost of discipleship is to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus.  Discipleship entails laying aside anything which distracts one from God.  Certainly improper desires distract one from God.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God, but much can distract us from God, if we permit that to happen.

Interestingly, the parables in Luke 15 depict God as not being distracted from us.  Rather, God is concerned about us.  God seeks us actively and waits for us to return when we stray.  Divine rejoicing upon finding one who was lost is extravagant.  Does not such love merit reciprocation.





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Posted October 28, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Luke 14, Luke 15, Proverbs, Psalm 1

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Sheep and Shepherds   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)


All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.







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Predatory Shepherds   1 comment


Above:  Shepherds and Sheep, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06366


The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 34:1-16

Psalm 23

Luke 15:1-7


Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 34:

Luke 15:


The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

You make me lie down in green pastures

and lead me beside still waters.

–Psalm 23:1-2, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Psalm 23 and Luke 15:4-7 provide useful contrasts to the predatory “shepherds” of Ezekiel 34:1-16.  Yahweh is the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15.  The latter material is especially familiar to me, for I have researched it recently.  There were teams of shepherds who guarded village flocks, which were assets.  One shepherd sought out a lost sheep while his coworkers guarded the others.

The “shepherds” of Ezekiel 34:1-16 were leaders of the kingdom.  They had become predators, not protectors.  They had scattered the flock and not tended to the needs of the sheep.  These bad “shepherds” had engaged in economic exploitation and official corruption.  And God was about to replace, said Ezekiel, for the benefit of the flock.

Corruption is among the leading causes of poverty, as people who live in developing countries with abundant and coveted natural resources can attest.  The discovery of oil, for example, should improve the standard of living for the masses there, but it usually benefits just a few while the majority persist in poverty because the few hoard the wealth instead of sharing it.  Greed is truly the root of all human evil and a persistent social problem.  May all agents of it either repent and convert (the preferred remedy) or fail in their perfidious plots, by the efforts of moral people who are agents of God.








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Precious to God   1 comment


Above:  Sheep and Shepherds

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-10045

Image Source = Library of Congress



The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 and Psalm 14


Exodus 32:7-14 and Psalm 51:1-11


1 Timothy 1:1-12

Luke 15:1-10

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 19, Year A:

Proper 19, Year B:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

Exodus 32:

1 Timothy 1:

Luke 15:


The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 14:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Changing God conceptes in the Bible interest me.  Yahweh, in Genesis and Exodus, is willing to annihilate sinful populations.  But God, in Jeremiah 4, holds back the worst of judgment for sins.  And God, as characters in parables in Luke 15:1-10, finds lost, sinful people precious, even necessary to find and to redeem.

I like the translation of Psalm 14:1 from TANAKH:  The Holy Scripures.  The standard English translation from the Hebrew text into English is that a fool claims that God does not exist.  But, as Atheism was rare in the original context of that psalm,

God does not care

works well as what the fool says.  The fool acknowledges the existence of God while being a practical Atheist.  This rendering of the verse reminds me of the Deist concept of God as a watchmaker who refuses to intervene in events.

The God of the Bible–whichever understanding of that deity from which one speaks–cares deeply.  And I, as a Christian, affirm that the Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, who died and rose again, defeating perfidious schemes and conquering evil.  And, if each of us is precious to God, how precious should we be to each other?






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Numbers and Luke, Part I: Respecting God   1 comment


Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 3:1-16, 39-48 (36th Day of Easter)

Numbers 8:5-26 (37th Dayof Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–36th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–37th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–36th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–37th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:25-15:10 (36th Day of Easter)

Luke 15:11-32 (37th Day of Easter)


Some Related Posts:

Luke 14-15:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


I belong to a wonderful congregation in Athens, Georgia.  It is friendly, generous, socially progressive, and open to free intellectual and spiritual inquiry.  The parish has become a community leader in environmental stewardship, with plans to improve according to this standard.  Of all the churches to which I have belonged, it is the closest fit for me.  Yet I think that my parish is too casual.  This is not a deal breaker for me, but the place is too casual.  So I come to church most Sundays dressed in a suit, a tie, and a fedora.  I stand out.  In a place where I, once the resident heretic in southern Georgia, am now relatively orthodox (without having changed my mind much), I stand out in another way.  Blending in is overrated.

The concept of one’s Sunday Best is a dated one in my increasingly casual North American culture.  Without turning church into an occasion for a fashion show, I affirm the underlying principle of Sunday Best:  One ought not approach God with a casual attitude.  That principle also undergirded the purity and Levitical codes in the Law of Moses.

This God whom we should not approach casually is the one whom we should love more than any person, possession, or other attachment.  This is the God who seeks us out when we are lost.  This is the God who listens to our insults, waives the death penalty from the Law of Moses, awaits our return, and welcomes us home.  (The son in the parable had told his father, via his early request for his inheritance,

I wish that you were dead.

This met the definition of cursing or insulting a parent, an offense which carried the death penalty.)

This is God, worthy of all our respect.  May our manner and attitude of approaching God in public and private reflect that reality.







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Before and After   1 comment


Above:  The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass



Joshua 5:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Joshua,

Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.

And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying,

This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.

So Jesus told them this parable:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands’”‘ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B:

2 Corinthians 5:

Luke 15:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:



These are readings about new beginnings in God.  Happy and blessed are the forgiven, Psalm 32 says.  In Joshua 5 the Israelites celebrate the first Passover in the Promised Land.  Jesus, in Luke 15, tells a story about a wastrel son, his resentful brother, and a loving father.  I choose to focus on the parable in Luke.

Sometimes familiarity breeds reading on autopilot.  So let us read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Let us really read it.  A rebellious younger brother insults his father and wastes his share of the inheritance.  Then he comes to his senses after he hits bottom.  So he returns home and throws himself on his father’s mercy.  The father, who has been looking for his son’s return, welcomes him home and throws a great party for the occasion.  All is forgiven.  Yet the dutiful older brother  wonders why he never got a party.  And this brother imagines what his younger sibling might have done with all that money.

Before the younger brother was a fool; now he is sensible.  Before the older brother was resentful.  But is still that way after his father pleads with him at the end?  The story ends without resolving that question.  Now the younger brother can be what he is supposed to be, but what about the older brother?

How does this story relate to you, O reader?






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