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9/11/2022 Sermon

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Luke 15:1-10 and Edwina Gately – “Called to Become”

Rev. TJ Mack – Union Congregational Church of Hancock

Luke 15:1-10 – The Message

15 1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of questionable reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’

Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than

over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

8-10 “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

Called to Become -- Edwina Gateley

You are called to become A perfect creation. No one is called to become Who you are called to be. It does not matter How short or tall Or thick-set or slow You may be. It does not matter Whether you sparkle with life Or are as silent as a still pool. Whether you sing your song aloud Or weep alone in darkness. It does not matter Whether you feel loved and admired Or unloved and alone For you are called to become A perfect creation. No one's shadow Should cloud your becoming. No one's light Should dispel your spark. For the Lord delights in you. Jealously looks upon you And encourages with gentle joy Every movement of the Spirit Within you. Unique and loved you stand. Beautiful or stunted in your growth But never without hope and life. For you are called to become A perfect creation. This becoming may be Gentle or harsh. Subtle or violent. But it never ceases. Never pauses or hesitates. Only is— Creative force— Calling you Calling you to become A perfect creation.

How do we define questionable reputation? Typically, someone that is different than ourselves, and also different than those we know and associate with. We place our judgements on others based on our limited life experiences, thus the spectrum of reputable and disreputable is likely different for each one of us. We break along demographics of gender, age, educational and economic disparities, and myriad other divisions.

Do body art – tattoos – qualify as making one of questionable reputation? How about piercings? Or the decision to marry or not marry while cohabitating? O having a child without the legality of marriage? Or what about being divorced – does that give one a questionable reputation?

If we are categorizing someone as having a questionable reputation, we are putting them down and perhaps more accurately, situating ourselves above them.

All of the examples I have just mentioned have been redefined in my lifetime, both for me personally and more broadly within our society. What is acceptable and normative is not static.

Often, we don’t re-consider or change our opinions until we are directly challenged by the stereotype in question.

When did my opinion of divorce shift from questionable or sinful to acceptable? When it directly affected someone I loved.

When did my opinion of body art become less judgmental? When I got my first tattoo.

How about you? When have you changed your mind about someone about whom you had previously held a negative opinion?

Jesus’ “crime” in this scripture lesson was treating those with questionable reputations as friends.

In response, we hear two parables about being lost and found. I will focus on the parable of the lost sheep.

Who are you identifying with at this juncture in your life – the one lost or one of the 99 safely gathered? Or maybe the shepherd – searching and finding and celebrating the individuality of each and every one of us?

Can you think of a time when you left the 99 to search and find the one?

Maybe a sibling or a child that was in crisis with addiction or other mental health issues?

Did the world stop revolving for everything except that one individual while you searched for solutions and supported their efforts to regain equilibrium?

I had dinner with a friend this week who told me about her experience being a foster parent.

The scenario: a late-night phone call asking, can you take a five-year-old child who needs to be placed immediately? Her heart melted. How could she not say ‘yes’? The one is rescued, brought home and into the fold, celebrated.

Do we do this for everyone or only those we deem worthy?

What if the phone call was not about an innocent five-year-old child but a multiple offender of various non-violent drug or alcohol related issues? Do we open our house to them as a sponsor to give them another chance at recovery? Tough question. Our answers will vary depending on circumstances.

Engaging with does not have to mean opening our homes to help. But we must open our hearts to help.

Who is it that we would refuse help? Refuse to eat with? Refuse to worship with? Who do we miss out on learning from or teaching or helping, because we judge the content of their character by the color of their skin, or the number of piercings on their ears, eyebrows, nose, or lips?

Whoever that is, is exactly who we should be engaging with, befriending, learning from and with. They are not so different than ourselves.

Edwina Gately’s poem, “Called to Become” encourages us to find ourselves. We are called to find ourselves first as individuals and then as members of one great human family.

Those personal choices I mentioned earlier, whether or when to have a child, or to get piercings, or tattoos – just to be clear – those people aren’t lost to God because of their circumstances – they are not lost to themselves because of their choices – they are only lost to us for the simple fact that we are too blind to see them.

We are the lost ones when we refuse to see all of God’s people as full and equal members of our human family. We are the ones that need to find our way back to God – perhaps through these very people that we ostracize, marginalize and criticize.

Let us have mercy on ourselves and others.

Let us welcome all into the family of God by drawing an ever-widening circle of those we count as worthy. Let us learn to draw an all-encompassing circle.

We will experience the fullness of God’s intended community when all are fully included.

That will be cause for celebration!

Rev. TJ Mack – September 11, 2022

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