Daily Archives: November 5, 2020
Psalm 27 (NRSV)
Triumphant Song of Confidence
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Luke 15:1-10 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
15 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “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? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 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.’ 7 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.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “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? 9 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.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
“There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
When we hear about the trial of someone accused of a sensational crime, we often feel torn. On the one hand, we want justice and a fair resolution for the families of the victims. But on the other hand, something inside tells us that we should let mercy triumph over judgment.
Today, Jesus tells the parable of a shepherd diligently searching for one lost sheep. He invites us to join him in the search, not in order to punish the stray for wandering from the fold, but in order to bring it back to safety. We understand that we need to be merciful, but we tend to miss the way our acts of mercy can set us free as well as the person we are forgiving.
In her book Dead Man Walking, Helen Prejean accounts the story of a father whose child was brutally murdered. The father began with a strong desire to punish the perpetrators. However, he eventually realized that his thirst for vengeance was changing him in ways he didn’t like. Instead of remaining a kind and generous person, he was becoming wary and hateful. He realized that he shouldn’t give a wrongdoer so much power over him. So he began his journey toward forgiveness by interceding for the perpetrators every day and by reaching out to their hurting family. Over time, he saw his own heart soften and his faith grow dramatically.
Aligning ourselves with the Good Shepherd doesn’t always come naturally. Very small children already express a keen awareness of unfairness, especially if they feel they’ve been wronged. They quickly place conditions on their forgiveness: I’ll forgive him only if he asks, if I believe he’s truly sorry for what he did, and if he tries to make it up to me. In other words, I’ll stay here in the sheepcote with my arms folded and wait for him to turn around and come home, humbled and repentant.
You can just imagine the Good Shepherd shaking his head at such behavior. He wants us to forgive unconventionally, just as he forgives us. He knows that as we take small steps in imitation of him, our own straying hearts will change.
Thank you, Lord, for your great mercy. Please help me extend forgiveness as you have extended forgiveness to me. Amen.