The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Stories for angry religious people (readings for Sep. 16, 2007)

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Once again, Jesus has been devoting his attention to “a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation.” And once again, some religious folks are appalled. Jesus responds with three parables, two of which are included in this week’s texts: the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.

Remember the first hearers: these are stories told to angry religious people. They wanted exclusion on the basis of lifestyle; he wanted inclusion of all.

Friend of mine has a bumper sticker that says God bless the whole world: no exceptions! That’d be like Jesus. And these are parables for those who disagree.


Proper 19 (24) September 16, 2007
Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28; Psalm 14

To see these stories in another language or another English version, click here.

Luke 15
The Story of the Lost Sheep
1-3By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful 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.
The Story of the Lost Coin
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.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Timothy 1:12-17
12-14I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.

15-17Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.

Deep honor and bright glory
to the King of All Time—
One God, Immortal, Invisible,
ever and always. Oh, yes!

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Jeremiah 4
11-12At that time, this people, yes, this very Jerusalem,
will be told in plain words:
“The northern hordes are sweeping in
from the desert steppes—
A wind that’s up to no good, a gale-force wind.
I ordered this wind.
I’m pronouncing
my hurricane judgment on my people.”[…]
Experts at Evil
22″What fools my people are!
They have no idea who I am.
A company of half-wits,
dopes and donkeys all!
Experts at evil
but klutzes at good.”

23-26I looked at the earth—
it was back to pre-Genesis chaos and emptiness.
I looked at the skies,
and not a star to be seen.
I looked at the mountains—
they were trembling like aspen leaves,
And all the hills
rocking back and forth in the wind.
I looked—what’s this! Not a man or woman in sight,
and not a bird to be seen in the skies.
I looked—this can’t be! Every garden and orchard shriveled up.
All the towns were ghost towns.
And all this because of God,
because of the blazing anger of God.

27-28Yes, this is God’s Word on the matter:

“The whole country will be laid waste—
still it won’t be the end of the world.
The earth will mourn
and the skies lament
Because I’ve given my word and won’t take it back.
I’ve decided and won’t change my mind.”

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 14
A David Psalm
1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.

2 God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.

3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow their fellow.

4 Don’t they know anything,
all these impostors?
Don’t they know
they can’t get away with this—
Treating people like a fast-food meal
over which they’re too busy to pray?

5-6 Night is coming for them, and nightmares,
for God takes the side of victims.
Do you think you can mess
with the dreams of the poor?
You can’t, for God
makes their dreams come true.

7 Is there anyone around to save Israel?
Yes. God is around; God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
turned-around Israel sings laughter.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Tags: , , , , , , , , , Monte Asbury

Written by Monte

September 10, 2007 at 1:00 pm

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