Track 1: A Time of Celebration
In today’s Gospel we have these wonderful stories of celebration:
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 he told them this parable: “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? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 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.’ 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. ()
This may be age specific, but I can really relate to the second parable Jesus told:
“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? 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.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ()
I rejoice when I find my wallet or car keys, but that is such small potatoes. Can you imagine the celebration that go on in heaven? God’s love is to be celebrated.
When we get together with family and friends, we often celebrate our love with food and drink. But there is even greater celebration:
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
Celebrations help us to recall the goodness of God. They carry us through the difficulties of this life. God appointed days of celebration for Israel: Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles. These were feast days for both God and his people. His people, which includes us, still celebrate them. The focus is on food and drink, but with a greater focus on the love and provisions of God. They talk about the past, but they prophetically to a brighter future, a glorious future.
The psalmist wrote:
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul[c] may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Psalm 30:11-12)
Each day can be celebration for us when we commune with God. The psalmist wrote:
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Today is a day for celebration by those who have found the kingdom of God. It might, in some ways be challenging for us. Jesus said:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 KJV)
From Nehemiah we read:
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
That was an earthly celebration of the Kingdom. In The Book Revelation we have a heavenly one:
And I heard something that sounded like a huge crowd, like rushing water and powerful thunder. They said,
“Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty,
exercised his royal power!
Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory,
for the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
She was given fine, pure white linen to wear,
for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice.” (Revelation 19:6-8)
We do not want to miss this one!
Track 2: Patience and Believing
Through Mose, God had rescued Israel from captivity in Egypt with great signs and wonders. He had parted the Red Sea so his people could walk over on dry ground, releasing the water to drown Pharaoh and his chasing chariots. Let us now read, in astonishment, what followed :
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” (Exodus 32:7-8)
How could this have happened? Mose was up on the mountain of God for an extended time and the Israelites were loosing patience. So they took matters into their own hands and, apparently forgot all the great miracles had done to set them free. They said:
“These are our gods who brought us up out of the land of Egypt!”
What possible can we learn from their reactions? None of us would have been that foolish. Right?
What about a great nation which was conceived and planned by God? He blessed it with wise leaders who were committed to his plan. He awoke the people through a great nationwide revival called the Great Awakened. it took great patience and determination to follow through God’s plan. It took courage and faith.
What are the people of this nation saying and believing now? Have they dismissed their inheritance and distorted their narrative of history? Are some of then not saying?
These are the gods we now follow and believe in: division, strife, accusations, class warfare, abortion, transgenderism, etc.
God has been removed from the culture. He has been taken out of our schools. We are told what to think and believe by those who are skillful in telling us lies. We live in an age of deception. What is our primary source of information and belief? Is it spiritual or secular:
The secular mind is capable of thinking and believing anything, no matter the level of education. Reading from Romans:
Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to an unfit mind and to do things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of injustice, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Romans 1:28-31)
God still loves us and wants to set us straight. Paul writes:
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2-3)
By the grace of God, Paul preached a Gospel that, at one time, he condemned:
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
This is what Paul needed, a transformed mind. How about any of us? We must be willing to hear God’s Word more than the false gods of this age. It may be a struggle to do so, but the reward is eternal life. We have the examples of those who have gone before us:
Reading from Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-3)