- The Rev. Arianne Rice
"I Got You Babe!"
When Jesus tells the parable about the shepherd who chases after the one lost sheep, we think a) it's our responsibility to do the same, or b) if only we would stop sinning, making mistakes and messing up we wouldn't need to be found! But guess what, neither is true! The parable isn't about us, it's a supportive and encouraging reminder about God - who is always ready to pick us up! Arianne's sermon on The Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke's Gospel.
Did you ever wonder, or maybe you already know, why the Nicene Creed always comes directly after the sermon? Well, since you asked, it’s our response to the sermon. The response church authorities have dictated to ensure that no matter what was said, no matter what was heard, whether you agree or disagree, or whether the sermon was unintelligible or heretical, we will respond with right belief!
But sometimes I wonder – because words are so very powerful. Especially words we say every Sunday – week by week – year through year – and for some of us over so many years, decades, even. I wonder what would happen if we instead our creed went something like this:
We believe in one God.
We believe God created us and everything and loves us with reckless abandon.
And for this we are eternally grateful. And from eternal gratitude and love we will eternally be gratitude and love in our world.
Our belief, our purpose, our mission is to generously share the overwhelming never-ending reckless love* to help us and everyone else wake up to the beauty and gift of Love every day, so that we are ready to greet Love at the last. Amen.
As "right" as our doctrinal neo-platonic 4th century orthodox descriptions of trinitarian relationship, incarnational theology and the consubstantial properties between Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit statement – as lovely as those words are – I just wonder what reminding ourselves of the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God would do for us? Because words, especially words we repeat and really know, matter.
I’ve seen this – and I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen it when I’m with people who are dying. If you say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, or Psalm 23 The Good Shepherd – they react. I’ve had them join me. I've had them struggle to. I’ve wondered sometimes if it was good that I prayed it, maybe it would have been better to let them be. But I trust God with stuff in this work.
And more personally I’ve felt it. I repeat so many words Sunday by Sunday, week by week, year by year. And now that I’m pretty well past a decade of praying them, I know they've changed me. The Collect for Purity, the Eucharist prayers,, the pop-up in the context of my life awaking me to God's presence. Words are powerful.
Words can wake us up!
And that's what Jesus is trying to do with the parables of Chapter 15 in Luke! I've said it before and I'll say it any time Luke 15 pops up in our lectionary if there's any gospel chapter worth knowing worth knowing where to find in the Bible when you are at the lowest of low, abandoned and alone – or racked with guilt over something you’ve done – please go to Luke chapter 15!
With three different parables – not stories – parables, the shepherd, the woman and the prodigal son - Jesus hammers home the point that God desires nothing more than being in relationship with us. And there is absolutely nothing you could ever do to stop God from generously, recklessly and with full abandon share this overwhelming love.
In fact – doing that is what completes God’s joy. This is when God rejoices. And that’s what this parable is about – not us, but God!
There are plenty of places where Jesus tells us about our joy – I’ve said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete – but this chapter is all about God and God’s joy.. And being told – that when we need God, when we lean on God – when we want to be found – Love will find us!
Luke 15 is, as far as I'm concerned, the summation of the good news of biblical revelation.
When Jesus says "Which one of you?" the answer is no one. No one abandons 99% of their assets to chase after 1%. The ROI on that stinks and we wouldn't do it. No one spends all the money they just found to throw a party - that means they no longer have it. Jesus practically ignores the Pharisees and just goes straight to what matters. Hoping that maybe his words will wake them up from their grumbling.
Do y’all remember the movie “Groundhog Day”?** Early 90s – Bill Murray plays a weatherman – and he’s sent with his crew to this town in Pennsylvania to see Puxatawny Phil – the groundhog who pops up to see if we see his shadow and can then predict spring or more winter.
And Bill Murray – is a jerk. A classic – I’m better than every one else – certainly better than the po-dunk people of this town – so let’s film this thing – and get outta here. He’s rude and condescending and treats people as less than.
But after the big Puxatawny Phil moment – there’s a snowstorm – and they can’t leave – so they spend the night. And the next morning he wakes up – and slowly, comedically – as he goes through the day – Murray’s character realizes he’s going through the same day as yesterday.
And at first he takes advantage of that – cheating people, winning at Jeopardy, getting the girl – he uses it as information. But that gets boring and it doesn’t change anything – he walks into bar at one point and talking to two guys there – says – Well what you do if you were stuck in the same day, day after day, and nothing you did mattered? And one guys replies – Well that about sums it up for me.
That’s the beginning of wisdom in the movie. That’s not being awake – we go through the routines of our day – day after day – thinking that nothing we did or we do matters. The human experience is one of repetition – it’s rote – like our creed.
And life, especially adult life, can get rote like that too. We spend the whole first part of life looking forward to the second half of life, and then we get here, and are constantly looking back, wondering what is there now to look forward to? That is when we are lost. That is when we need to wake-up. Today is the answer! Today there are myriad of moments to wake-up to.
And what song plays every day when Bill Murray literally wakes up in his routine? It's the same song on the radio, “I Got You Babe” Sonny & Cher. Except he's all alone in that bed. Could it be a message from the universe, from God - I got you Phil, I'm right here Phil, if only you would really wake up and see it!
That's what I think Jesus reminds us of this morning - God has got us. God always does, and when we forget, God can't wait to run and find us when we wake up again. I got you babe – I got you especially when you wake up and realize you’re a little lost. This isn’t a story about sin – or doing something wrong. Sheep wander and just get lost. Coins just get lost – and they don't even have a conscience! Sometimes we wander off too, sometimes we don't even know we've stopped paying attention. To repent is simply to turn our attention. To turn back to Love, Gratitude, God. Maybe we'll make amends, maybe we'll change our ways, but first we have to wake up.
Wake up – the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God is here – wake up!
*Grateful to this song "Reckless Love" by Cory Asbury for inspiring me with this phrase.
**Grateful for the podcast "This Movie Changed Me" and the discussion on "Groundhog Day" for privingd me with this insight.