Devotions for Luke 15:1-32–Parables of Jesus
March 13-19, 2017
Monday, March 13, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to him” (Luke 15:1).
Perhaps the idea started with little boys—that dirt is attracted to whatever is clean. Put a freshly washed boy in clean clothes and then wait a short amount of time. A dirty boy will appear in dirty clothes. The clean must be kept separate from whatever is dirty otherwise it will become dirty. This is why the Pharisees and scribes couldn’t understand Jesus allowing dirty people—tax collectors and sinners—to come into contact with him. They would make Jesus dirty.
Jesus knew something that the scribes and Pharisees didn’t, though. It may be true that dirt is attracted to clean clothes and makes them dirty, that isn’t what happens in relationships. Love is more powerful than brokenness when it comes to people. Jesus, with love, touched the sick and the demon possessed and made them clean. Associating with the sinners and tax collectors didn’t make Jesus dirty, instead it made them clean.
We may not want to get our hands dirty and we may be uncomfortable being around the homeless, the hungry and the hurting. We may not want to become involved in other people’s problems. Striving to keep ourselves clean, though, is not what we are called to as followers of Jesus. Jesus invites us to serve and to witness the power of love which cleanses the dirt of the world.
Lord, forgive us for those times when our worry about keeping ourselves clean limits our ability to love and to serve. Amen.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“Which of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine” (Luke 15:4)?
The answer is, “None of us.” Such an action isn’t logical. If a shepherd were to leave the flock of ninety-nine sheep in order to search for one lost sheep, he would soon discover that he had one hundred lost sheep to locate. In ethic classes and seminars, it is usually taught that the group is more important than the individual. Thankfully for us, the Holy Spirit never took an ethics class.
God always works on an individual level. Certainly, there are groups, but the Spirit touches the lives of people in the group. For example, there are the Jews, God’s chosen people. Within that group, Jesus ministered to Simon the Pharisee, Zacchaeus the tax collector and Mary Magdalene who had been possessed by seven demons. The Jews looked down upon their Samaritan neighbors, but Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. We are part of several groups, our families, our congregations, the companies for which we work. Still, the Holy Spirit moves individually within each of us.
God’s actions are an example that we are encouraged to follow. We are challenged to see beyond the group—their names, descriptions and stereotypes—and see the individuals within the group. We might not be able to touch the lives of everyone in the group, but, we can minister to the needs of a few and share God’s love and grace with them.
Help us to see beyond the group, Lord, and to see the needs of the people within the group. Use the blessings you have given us to bless them. Amen.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices” (Luke 15:5).
Proud parents, especially the parents of babies and toddlers, are funny people. They get excited about the simplest things. The fact that little Johnny started to crawl is boastfully announced on Facebook and accompanied by pictures and videos. When two year-old Maria finally figures out what a potty chair is for, the parents get so excited that you’d think Maria walked on water. If the student gets on the honor roll, proud parents plaster the bumpers of their cars with stickers announcing the fact.
God is a proud parent. When God’s children pray, God gets excited . God celebrates when God’s children finally understand that they have been blessed to be a blessing and begin to live lives that reflect this truth. When God’s children decide to respond to God’s grace and walk in a dynamic relationship with God, God throws a party—a big party. We give God great joy when we live in the covenant that God made with us at our baptism.
Work within us, Holy Spirit, that we may always bring you joy and never sorrow. Amen.
Thursday, March 16, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
Harvey taught high school higher algebra, trigonometry and calculous. In every one of his classes, there was at least one student and usually several who struggled with the concepts of math. Harvey would go out of his way to help those students. He would work with them in class, after school and even arrange tutors for them. One of the great joys that Harvey experienced as a teacher was to witness a student’s eyes flash the light of understanding. For Harvey, that made the hard work of teaching worth it.
Responding to God’s grace with faith is difficult for most of us. “Letting go and letting God,” doesn’t happen overnight for us. To realize that God really has done everything and we really don’t need to do anything is so contrary to our life experiences that we struggle to rest in that promise and truth. When we grasp that the abundant life is not about ourselves but life lived in service for others, we take an important step of faith. When that light goes on in our hearts and we see life from a new perspective (repent) all of heaven throws a party. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit doesn’t stop working in our lives until a party can be thrown.
Holy Spirit, thank you for your persistent work in our lives. Thank you for never giving up on us. Amen.
Friday, Marcy 17, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“The younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in desolate living (Luke 15:13).
We have to admit that the young man was gutsy. He took what really didn’t belong to him (at least until his father died). Then the young man squandered the money on wine, women and song. His hedonism and poor financial management skills eventually caught up with him, and he found himself living a worse life than his father’s slaves.
We are aghast at the actions of the younger son, but in truth, aren’t we guilty of the same actions? God blesses us and we take those gifts (declaring that they are ours and misuse them on ourselves. We view our talents and abilities as only for our own advancement. The financial blessings that we have received are used to enable us to live the good life—cars houses, grand vacations and the like. Though we may drop a donation in the offering basket and write a check in support of a specific mission, rarely do we sacrificially give our time, talents and treasures for the benefit of others.
Like the young son, there are times when we too need to run home to the open arms of our Father and ask God’s forgiveness for our poor use of God’s blessings.
Lord, forgive our selfishness and self-centeredness. Open our eyes, hearts and hands so that we may freely share with others and meet their needs. Amen.
Saturday, March 18, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“But when 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” (Luke 15:20).
It is often difficult to ask for forgiveness. Not that we don’t want to, but we are ashamed to face another person and confess what we have done. It is hard to admit to our spouse or partner (or parents) that we put a crinkle in the bumper of the family car. Breaking a prized possession is not easy to admit as our fault. We may try to hide what has happened or put off our confession until it is absolutely necessary. When our sin is caused by a willful decision on our part, it is even more challenging to confess our guilt and ask for forgiveness.
Thankfully, we do not need to confess to an angry, judgmental God. Rather, we come before a God who is compassionate and loving. By the time God hears our admission of guilt, God has already assured us of God’s love and ushered us back home. God does not want us to live in guilt and shame. God’s forgiveness is freely given and leads to free and abundant lives.
Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness and for lifting the yokes of guilt and shame off our shoulders. Amen.
Sunday, March 19, 2017–Parables of Jesus
“Then he became angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:28).
When Luke wrote his gospel and included this parable in it, the Gentiles were becoming the majority in the Christian Church. They were like the younger brother who enjoyed a profligate life before coming home to the Father. The old brother was like the Jewish Christians. They had been God’s Chosen People for centuries. The Jewish Christians were the ones who really knew how to worship God. They were used to being in control and didn’t want to share it. When they became the minority in the Christian Church, they refused to celebrate.
Like the decades after Jesus, times are changing. White, Protestant Christians have been in control of things in the United States. We, however, are becoming the minority. People of color are becoming more influential. With the rapid growth of the Latino population, Whites will soon be a numerical minority. People of other faiths are also gaining a voice where once there was only a Christian solo.
We can decide to act like the older brother and pout that we are not being truly appreciated and are losing our influence. Or, we can choose to join the party. God’s invitation to celebrate is always open to us.
Lord, help us to accept our difference and celebrate our similarities. As you have taught us to share our time, talents and treasures, enable us to share our influence and our control, and to give up our desire to be the first among equals. Amen.