Luke 15:11 And Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons;"
While it is often customary to tell those gathered on such occasions, on the one hand that the Pastor who has come, is a gift of God, and will faithfully minister to the needs of the church, while telling the new pastor, that he has just come to the promised land, and that this is the best church in the best town that anyone can imagine. I shall trust that you both already know these things, as they are in no way hidden. So rather than state the obvious, I would rather guide you into a bit of wisdom which will help the people to see Godís will for the church, and for their new pastor to lead them in the way of God into every grace and blessing.
The parable we call the prodigal son, is the 3rd of 3 parables. It is preceded by the parables of the lost sheep, and the lost coin. There were 100 sheep, and one was lost, so the shepherd dropped everything and went searching for the lost one, and when he found it, he brought it home, and he fathered his friends and they rejoiced, for that which was lost has been found. In like manner, when the woman looses the coin, she drops everything and searches for the coin, and when she finds it, she too gathers her friends that they may rejoice with her, for that which was lost has now been found. Each of these parables concludes with a statement about how there is joy in heaven over just one sinner who repents.
Now while we all know this, there is a curious thing, for all over the world people are searching for ways to make going to church more of a celebration. Often the first thing to be removed from this new celebration service is confession and absolution. And is not long before we begin to hear people saying, we need more people in church, we need to do something to make it more attractive, for if we have more people, we will have more money, and it will be less of a struggle to pay the bills. The problem is that at the instant money is mentioned, the church ceases being the body of Christ, and the people of God in mission, and becomes just another organization concerned with survival.
It is curious, because Jesus promised that the church will endure, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Why is it that sometimes it seems so difficult to believe? Perhaps because there is no real or lasting joy, the joy of just one sinner who repents. It is no accident, that our services begin with a confession of sins, and absolution. And one begins to wonder, that if there is no joy in worship, could it be that there were no sinners who that day confessed theirs sins, and received forgiveness?
Sometimes its hard for us to understand. 1 sheep out of 100, its only a 1% loss, that often that is acceptable, so much so that we donít even give it another thought. 1 coin out of 10, still, thatís only a 10% loss, and while we might not like it, many have learned to live with it. But 1 out of 2, thatís too much. And even if that we not enough, while you can replace a sheep, and earn another coin, how do you get another child, they are not replaceable in the same manner.
And even if the loss is enough to prod us into comment, we are often offended by the fatherís extravagant love. For we cannot even imagine a father, who when his child says, drop dead, Dad, I want your stuff! Could you ever forgive such a thing? But that is exactly what God does, he forgives all who repent, and not only does God forgive, but he calls upon his children to forgive as God has forgiven us. And this forgiveness, in Jesus blood, is nothing less than life from the dead.
Now, in the church repentant sinners will always gather to hear the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. They hunger and thirst for this, and nothing can keep them away. The question is how do you reach the righteous? How do you reach those who do not believe they have any sins, and who see no need of repentance? How do you reach those who will not rejoice with all the angels in heaven over a sinner who repents? You reach them with the Word of God.
Do not the scripture tell us:Romans 3:10 None is righteous, no, not one;
Have not the scriptures said: Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
Did not we hear Godís Word: Rom 3:23 all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
When the church gathers, it is not one lost sinner and 99 righteous men, there is no us and them, for we are all sinners, we are all in need of forgiveness, we are all in need of the grace of God. We have come home to our father, because there is no where else to turn, we had hoped to be hired as a servant, but our father forgives us and accepts as his children. And while we rejoice because we are forgiven, we rejoice even more as we rejoice with God and all the angels at the salvation which has come in Jesus Christ our Lord. So dear friends in Christ, always remember that it is the forgiveness of sins that puts the celebration in the church, and it is this celebration in the way of salvation that gathers all people, that they to pay see their sins, and then rejoice with us as the see their savior and hear of his redeeming love.