“The Value of the One!”
Scripture: Luke 15: 1-10, September 15st, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these ancient words from the gospel according to Luke, chapter fifteen, verses one thru ten.”
1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
“Having listened to our reading from our gospel lesson, let us now consider its meaning for us – as we consider the worth of others in the eyes of God.”
“The Value of the One!”
Just how valuable are you? Have you ever asked yourself that? Many ways to approach this question. A few of you may be thinking about the money you have in savings or in stocks and bonds. Perhaps you have a fine home or a late model car. But, do you think this is how Jesus might weigh your worth? Do you really believe God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, cares what assets you have accumulated from the vast resources of this world? (Yes, God does care how we acquire our material assets, yet, they are not how we are valued in the Kingdom of Heaven.) So, let us consider the question in another manner: How valuable are you to others, especially those who have no chance of collecting anything from your estate when you are gone? Do you cut your neighbor’s lawn or carry out their trash for them? Those would surely be neighborly things to do, especially if they were unable to do so and could not afford to hire someone to handle it for them. So, how valuable are you in the eyes of others; in the eyes of God? How valuable are you to your friends, your neighbors and to you own family?
How do we calculate or estimate the value of others? How about those whom we hear about through the media? Of course, this is most often how we hear about others. Consequently, we hear about folks on the news, and we read about them in the newspapers or on some form of social media. We often, unfortunately, hear how people go missing. Sometimes, we hear of someone who is or has been kidnapped and frequently the ones whom have done this dastardly deed, are asking for a ransom to be paid for someone’s release. If you go missing – do you think anyone will come looking for you? Do you have someone whom would pay to have you returned? How much would they be willing to pay or sacrifice for you? Is the value higher if you are an only child, verses say you have six other brothers and sisters? Should this even matter when deciding what you are worth?
In the recent destruction of much of the Bahamas we hear the tragic stories of whole families, whole communities whom have lost everything. The ones telling us the stories are counted as survivors and many speak about the missing, the lost. There are heart breaking stories of people going to any lengths to try and reach the missing. Some are found, but many are still lost; perhaps they will not be found. I watched a news clip where several men where going back out into the flood waters in or on a small watercraft, a ‘jet ski’ I guess they are called. They could only rescue one or two people at a time. The storm was just receding, so these fellows were taking risks going back for others left behind. I don’t know how many they rescued, but it sure made a big difference to those they were able to help!
When we consider what it might be like to lose everything, like many have in the Bahamas, it can be hard to grasp. Although, I only know a few whom have experienced such loss in their lives, I would think such an experience, one such as this, would ‘change’ our sense of appreciation for what the value of things, verses, the value of one’s life – thereby causing us to form a new perspective of what – ‘one life’ might be worth. Along these same lines, I sat with a small group of friends the other day. We shared what we did or did not do to prepare for the big storm – that was forecasted to hit us straight on. Many of those I was speaking with live in manufactures homes, as we refer to them in this area of the world. They are not made of cement blocks nor are they build on a cement slab. They are considered ‘less safe’ by many, when facing the wrath of an oncoming storm such as Dorian. A glance at the Bahamas can confirm this – if you are unsure. I was a bit surprised at the mixed responses from my friends. Some prepared the best they could, but others took a causal view of it all. Had the storm hit, their very lives would have been in danger. This is one reason why I think it is important to understand the value of human life, not just our own but that of our neighbor as well.
Jesus was speaking to a gathering of sinners, and tax collectors (whom were despised because of their dishonest and callous ways). The religious elite, the Pharisees and Scribes, they gathered close by and they were grumbling about Jesus joining with and even eating alongside these sinners. From this we are told how Jesus was telling his short parables: about the lost sheep and the lost coin, pointing out the value of the one! Jesus pushes the point, in the parable of the lost sheep, saying the one which was lost, when found, was worth more rejoicing, more celebrating over, then the ones which were not lost. In the case of the one lost sheep, out of a hundred, Jesus pushes this point to the extreme. And then restates this concept with the story of the women whom had lost one of her silver coins. Which, when having found it, she rejoices over it more than the nine she never lost!
In this midst of this dialogue, many of us may have missed the key sentence that truly speaks to the message Jesus was putting forth for our ears. Verse seven from our reading is not part of either parable, yet it tells us where Jesus is focused. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Could it be that Jesus was saying to his sceptics that he was indeed more concerned for the lost – then he was for these indignant religious leaders whom seemed ‘unconcerned’ about those whom were indeed lost. What lesson might we glea
n from this interaction? What lesson was Jesus trying to put forth for and to those whom were listening? Surely, this is intended for our ears as well. If you are not counted among the missing, if you are not lost, ought not you, ought not we be concerned about those who are? Are you not willing to give of yourself for the sake of the ones who are in need; especial for the one whom is and was lost and continues to be lost – without your help? Wouldn’t you be willing to go out upon the flood waters to rescue even one?
There are many interpretations, of course, to many of the lessons Jesus words leave for us to ponder from our ancient scriptures. We can ponder the worth of even the lost soul whom needs help finding their way. We can, also, consider what Jesus was trying to communicate to the religious leaders about their roles in the lives of the lost. First, let’s be clear: everyone of God’s children are priceless in the eyes of the Creator. If you were or are the parent of a child, would that child not be priceless to you? Mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and relatives of a new child – is not a newborn a miracle of creation? Therefore, how can we not see them as priceless and worthy of our sacrifice.
As we ponder this lesson and its ramifications, we need not concern ourselves with some of the ‘wide-ranging’ contradictions these parables have in our modern world. Jesus, after all, was preaching to the gathered to make a point; he was not doing a thesis, nor a dissertation, nor was it meant to cover every conceivable, plausible and credible circumstance. Preachers usually take on one lesson at a time. Parents, caregivers, and pastors along with nurses are taught to first value the individual they are seeking to help… with the understanding that: that child or individual is priceless! Therefore, let us begin by reaching out and giving them the best that we have; doing everything we are able to do. Consequently, giving them hope, and giving us reassurance that we have made the best effort. Let us leave for another day, another lesson how we continue these metaphors to cover a countless array of possible scenarios.
So, where does this discuss take us? What have we harvested, what have we gained from this ancient lesson? Well, for one we know that ten coins are worth more then nine. Therefore, search for the lost one if you have lost it. Likewise, we know that 100 sheep are valued more than ninety-nine. Therefore, No, no, no! That is not the lesson, those are only parables, metaphors and stories for us to ponder! The point here is we need to put a true value on human life, whereby, we are willing to go to great lengths to save the one who has wandered away and become lost! Jesus wants everyone to be brought back into the fold, not just the gathered faithful! In the words of Jesus, “Just so, I tell you, (says Jesus) there is joy in the presence of the ‘angels’ of God over one sinner who repents.” /Luke 15:10/ The Pharisees and scribes of old, the religious leaders are charged with bringing the lost home. We, whom are not lost, we are charged to do the same! Gathering the ones which we can, helping them as best we can, is what followers of the man named Jesus are called to do! The value of the one… is priceless and worthy of our effort!