The Parables of the Lost Things Luke 15:1-24

We’re looking at Parables of Jesus in the gospel of Luke and here Jesus speaks 3 parables to: some people who knew they’d messed up who suspected God would never want them and to other people who were confident in their righteousness - the Pharisees, the community leaders. 


3 parables back to back. 3 stories, similarly themed. In each parable 3 things happen 1) something is lost 2) the loss leads to a search, 3) retrieval brings rejoicing 


  1. something is lost 

here’s the shepherd in his field caring for 100 sheep, it’s very unlikey that they all belong to him maybe 4 or 5 of them do. The flock is the combined ownership of his village his community and his job and responsibilty is to care for them all.  How regularly do you do a head count? Must be difficult.. they keep moving..

Except perhaps this shepherd doesn’t have to count - he knows his sheep -which means  hang on where’s fluffy? Haven’t seen him… fluffy? fluffy!? He’s wandered off again. 

Sheep are nototriously stupid and rebellious they get themselves into trouble, they need the Shepherd. A lost sheep


Then here’s the woman counting her valuable coins. My mum would always say If you count your money you’re going to lose it. One of this woman’s coins is lost! She counts again that sinking feeling of realisaton grows ….A lost coin 


Then a son comes to his father - says the unthinkable in that culture where you lived with your father until he died; where you’d bury your Father and only then would you leave. He says give me my share of the inheritance now, i’m leaving now. It’s a horrifying insult. It equates to saying ‘Dad i wish you were dead.’ Incredibly, the Father rather than punishing his wayward son, beating the living daylights out of him. This father …he grants his son the freedom even to reject his Fatherhood and love. The son takes the money, leaves his Father, squanders the wealth, winds up destitute.  A lost Son 


Jesus makes clear that in each case the lost things equate to people. ordinary people. people like us.  That we are in some way lost. And you don’t have to look lost to be lost. You don’t have to feel lost to be lost. 

The Bible says that Our true human home is in God; to be with God our Maker, the source of our existence. But perversely we know that instead of enjoying God, we largely ignore Him. Instead of discovering our true purpose living his way. We say with Frank Sinatra, ‘I’ll do it my way” 

Like a sheep wandering away from the Shepherd. 

Or like a Son saying to his Father -  I’ll take the gifts thanks - life, pleasure.. but i don’t want you. leave me alone God. Ill do it my way. 

This, we know, is the bias of our hearts. And you don’t even have to be a so called immoral or particularly dysfunctional person for this to be the case. The admired, well to do person who has given their life to charitable causes but has done so completely on her own terms with no reference to God is just as rebellious and just as Lost. 

We have wrenched ourselves from God who is the only life giver. And unchecked that lostness continues into eternity. 


But thank God is not the end of the story.  



Because the 2nd thing in the parables is that  

Each loss results in a search. Loss results in a SEARCH 


The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep and goes in search of the 1. Isn’t that extraordinary? If I was looking after a hundred sheep and only one went missing id think - well i haven’t done too badly. But not this shepherd. He’s not a generalist. He cares about the one. He embarks on a search and rescue expedition. 


The woman …turns the house upside down in search of the coin. 


And The father  ….. - implicit in the fact that He sees his returning son from a great distance and runs to him - is the reality that this Father was a horizon gazer. Every day this Father’s eyes never strayed for long from the horizon; from the road, longing for his son to come back. He’d put his office in that room and positioned his desk so that whatever work he was doing, regularly he’d break off to look out for his son. I bet people noticed him doing it. Perhaps some tried to dissuade him, perhaps you would have: “Give it up, do yourself a favour forget him, he’s never coming home. And anyway he did a disgraceful thing.”. He looks at you with tears in his eyes and says, ‘He’s my son - he’ll always be my son.” And his eyes return to the horizon. 


I think it might be a sign of getting on a bit .. but i’m always misplacing things and occasionally losing things. ‘Where are my keys! Has anyone seen my keys??” And when you lose something you can tell the value of that thing to you by the manner of your search. If you turn over a few cushions and shrug your shoulders and turn back to watching Strictly come dancing  - it obviously wasn’t that valuable. But if you’re missing Strictly! Urgently turning the house upside down because you can’t relax until you’ve found it, retracing your steps, you can’t sleep for racking your brains - then the thing that is lost must be of tremendous value to you! the value of the thing to you is revealed in the manner of the search. 


Humanity was lost and the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ did not merely shrug his shoulders, sadly shake his head and return to creating new worlds… No, he got up , he crossed the great divide from heaven to earth to come and find us. We had ignored and offended God and yet Jesus, eternally God humbled himself to share our broken humanity. He became human. He went from Glory to a stable floor. From the company of angels to the friendship of sinners. From the throne of Creation to the agony of the cross. To pay for our offences and to reconcile us to God. 



The value of the thing to you is revealed in the manner of the search. You and I have never clapped eyes on a human being who isn’t of absolute value to God. We might not know them, they may mean nothing to us. But God… he would die for them if they were the one person on earth. He would die for you if you were the one person on earth. You are infinitely valuable to God. he loves you. he came in search for you. 




The three parables end on similar notes 

Retrievals bring rejoicing. Retrievals bring rejoicing. 


It’s Classic  stuff. 

When the man finds his lost sheep, when the woman finds her lost coin, when the Father finds his lost son - the pattern is the same they call their friends and neighbours, come and celebrate with me! We’re killing the fatted calf, party of the century.  Come on!

Why? - what are we celebrating? It’s not your birthday? No. an anniversary? No. You’re getting married!!? No! You’ve got a job promotion? No!! What then? 


I’ve found fluffy! 


my lost sheep! 

Oh OK… what do you wear to a lost sheep party?


Come and celebrate with me. I’ve found my lost sheep, my lost coin, my lost son 


Just as we reserve the fullest searches for the things we think are the most valuable so we reserve the biggest celebrations don’t we for the times that we think are most important. Depending on whatever big story is governing our lives. If I’m living for material success and career achievement then the biggest celebrations in my life will be to celebrate promotions, contracts, awards. If it’s human relationships and families (probably a much healthier story) then it will be weddings and anniversaries. 


But according to Jesus - look at what gets the champagne flowing in heaven - in God’s dimension - look at what is deemed the reason for rejoicing v7, v10 rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. One lost person who comes home. To be eternally found, eternally secure. This is the story that governs all reality. What really matters. That which energises heaven.


Actually did you notice the joy of the finder begins before the party? The party is just 

the corporate expression of the finder’s already joy. The finder’s suffering joy. 

Because the Shepherd’s joy doesn’t begin when he finally gets the sheep home. the shepherd rejoices when he finds the sheep - even though the sheep is still not restored and lost sheep normally need lifting out of some trouble they’ve got themselves into and lost sheep are normaly so parlaysed with fear that they don’t want to be found. Look at what the Shepherd has to do he has to carry the sheep on his shoulders all the way home. But he bear this burden willingly and with joy. The Bible says that for the joy set before him Jesus willingly endured the cross for us to carry us home. He did so joyfully. 

And the Father … he knows that the returning disgraced son may not even make it into the village if he is identified by others before the Father finds him. He will be humiliated, lynched he will suffer. So the Father when he sees the Son.. he runs that gauntlet so that his child will not have to. He literally runs. At the best of time men in late middle age look ridiculous running. In this culture it was humiliating for a man of stature to run. But this Father runs to intercept his son. To interrupt his words of apology, to publicly reconcile with his son, to protect him with his robe of righteousness and ring of sonship. No lectures, no reprimands. Acceptance and joy. 

It wouldn’t have been just the Father’s other son who thought the Father was foolish, outrageous, weak for just taking back the prodigal younger son. Most of the  village would have thought it. what a pushover. what an idiot. They probably only went to the party because of the free food and drink. 

But I don’t think that those people would affect the Father’s joy in his returning child one jot. And others would have been there saying, what a Father he is… What a Father! He suffers joyfully to bring his child home. 


I wonder, How do you imagine God? how do you picture him? Do you picture a distant thundering figure, who prefers fear and respect to love. Who forgives yes but reluctantly and after making the penitent person squirm? That is not the picture Jesus gives. Jesus tells of a crazy caring shepherd; of a housewife turning the house upside down so valuable is her lost coin; of a Father humiliating himself by running to embrace a son who has squandered half the family fortune.


This is who God is. This is how much he loves us. How much he wants to know us an bring us home eternally to himself. For we were lost but that loss led to an all out search and retrievals bring rejoicing. So come home. 








The Parable of the Mustard seed and Yeast Luke 13:18-21


There's a video going viral on youtube - plays a sound and some people hear yanni and some people hear laurel. People hear the exact same thing but hear something completely different. Apparently it’s something to do with the shape of your ear. I personally hear ‘lobster…lobster’

Another thing that’s split opinion this last week is THAT sermon. Bishop Michael Curry’s passionate sermon at last weekend's Royal Wedding. The most heard piece of Christian communication in history with an estimated 2 billion people watching. Social media tells us that many loved it. Footage of facial expressions at the actual wedding tell us that others hated. Some Christians loved it. Some hated it. 

Set aside the fact that the leader of the Episcopal church of the USA, which is currently out of fellowship with the Anglican communion over the issue of marriage, probably shouldn’t have been given this platform. Set that aside and I think it was a GREAT sermon of how love can transform the world. Yes, the sermon could have told more of the gospel - about how our love is corrupted and fallen and needs the redeeming love of God to save us. Yes it could be misconstrued that Michael Curry was saying that human love changes the world. But i don;t think he did say that. he said that all love flows from the God who is love. the God of the cross. And that’s true and wonderful. 

I loved his passage where he said this 


Think and imagine a world where love is the way.”

Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. 

Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way.

Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. 

Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way. 

Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. 

When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.

When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.

When love is the way, poverty will become history. 

When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.

When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.

When love is the way, there's plenty good room - plenty good room - for all of God's children.

"Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well... like we are actually family.

When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.

My brothers and sisters, that's a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.


He’s describing the plans and purposes of God through Jesus to renew this world completely and eternally by love. To restore what the Bible calls the Kingdom of God. This was God’s promised from the very start to Abraham - all the nations of the world will be blessed. And it’s the promise that is affirmed through Jesus. 


But of course there are big questions that this raise: like for a start:  

when? when are you gonna do this God? the disciples often asked Jesus this. Before he went back to heaven after his resurrection, the disciples said ‘are you now going to establish the Kingdom in Israel - are you now going to bring justice and perfection and equality and life like God has promised. When are you gonna do it? The Jews always expected that God’s kingdom would come in one mighty moment. But Jesus has been around and it hasn’t happened yet. 

Yes there have been glimpses - like what happens directly before our reading today when Jesus heals a woman. But Jesus always seems to take a step forward and then immediately two steps back! he draws huge crowds to him and then he speaks in unintelligible parables and issues such hard challenges that everybody leaves! he enters jerusalem as a king but then dies on a cross! he rises from the dead but then leaves everything to a fearful, uneducated, slow to believe, small bunch of disciples! 

So It’s not so much a question of when will the kingdom come but will it really come? 

global peace, environmental balance, inclusion and well being …?

I remember a woman once saying to me it feels like there are forces of good and forces of evil in this world.. and good is not winning. 

The kingdom of God seems a pipe dream.. 


it seemed that way to the disciples it can seem that way to us. 

the church takes a step forward and two steps back. in some parts of the world there is great interest in the things of God. In the west we are in terminal decline. peace comes in one part of the world war breaks out in three others. agreements on climate change get made then torn up. aid comes to the poor and hungry while the gap between the haves and the havenots grows larger than ever. 

Is it all just a pipe dream. Where is this promised Kingdom of God? How will it ever come?


Well this is the question Jesus is answering with these two simple parables. 


He wants to address our feelings of fear and confusion and potential despair about the Kingdom. 

By assuring us that the Kingdom will not fail but will prosper and grow. It will happen. Love wins. But you have to see how love wins 


v16 this grand oratoical question “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 

The Kingdom of God - to what shal i compare it?

Hold your breath.. What answer will come

It is like …. a mustard seed 


See i told you, say the disciples, this thing is doomed 

A mustard seed. The tiniest seed in the garden. 

A cosmic mustard seed?

A special mustard seed?


No just a regular one that you plant..


If you think that the Kingdom of God can look unimpressive - infact you can’t even really see it. Jesus says yeah that’s right the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his garden.


The kingdom of God has terribly small and unimpressive beginnings 


Well that’s true of Jesus himself 

He came from the glory of heaven to poverty, humility, 

his cradle was a manger 

his nursery was a stable surrounded by beasts 

his home was a judea a backwater kind of place 

Nazareth to be specific - one of those disappointing from which nothing good comes 


a mustard seed 

a mustard seed planted 

the kingdom of God is quite literally an underground movement. It begins hidden. A seed hidden in a heart, hidden in a life that is hidden in God. 

When you think about the Kingdom of God don’t think region but reign, not location but lordship. The Kingdom of God is not a place it’s his loving rule over human hearts and the influence of that rule in the beginnings of obedient lives to him. It’s an underground movement 


and it begins with death 

unless the seed is buried in the ground, into death there can be no life

unless Jesus die for us and be buried for us there can be no life, no forgiveness, no resurrection for us. 

and unless a person dies to themselves their own hold on their lives, their own self rule and relinquishes lordship to Jesus - there can be no life with them 


the kingdom of God has terribly small and unimpressive beginnings - hidden from view, hidden in a heart 

but the kingdom will grow ..gradually ..imperceptibly but ultimately disproportionatley from its beginnings. Just as a mustard seed grows into these tree like extensive bushes 10 feet tall providing protection and shade for birds so the Kingdom will grow way way way beyond its initial signs of promise. It will happen 


In the OT time and again the Kingdom of God is pictured as a tree - a giant Cedar tree - where birds come and shelter and nest. The birds are the peoples of the earth. The gentile nations drawn in under God’s branches. A haven. A place where people of all races can comfortably reside. 

The Kingdom grows global and unites the world but Jesus hints that there will always be surprises about the way that the Kingdom comes. Not in ways anticipated, not instantly and mightily but gradually and through weakness. A mustard bush not a cedar tree. 



2nd parable - equally familiar and ordinary. jesus moves from the garden into the kitchen. 

Again the great oratorical question. ‘What shall i compare the kingdom of God to?’ 

Will it be a bigger thing now? The KINGDOM OF GOD! 

Hold your breath.. What answer will come?

It is like …. yeast 


yeast? yeast? 


Cosmic yeast? 

Special yeast?

No. Just yeast. the kind you mix into flour to make bread rise. 


yeast - tiny, microscopic. 

there are 20billion yeast cells in just one gram of baker’s yeast 

and here it is a tiny proportion in comparison to the large amount of flour. 3 measures - a measure was 13L so nearly 40 L of flour here a large pot

a tiny invisible organism but an incredible influence 


Jesus’ emphasis here is not the extensive nature of the kingdom as with the mustard seed 

The emphasis here is the transforming power of the kingdom 


The kingdom will be extended universally 

AND the kingdom will transform powerfully.


The Kingdom does not just grow it’s hidden power changes the world radically 


Note that the yeast only has influence because of where it is placed. It is mixed into the flour and it is worked through all the dough. You have to do that mixing and kneading don’t you? mixed in. worked through. 

The yeast cannot influence if it is on the side, left on the margins.  

Far from its influence being diminished by it being hidden, buried, overwhelmed, UNLESS it is hidden it has no influence at all. 


Let’s think about the implications of these 2 parables 

  1. The Kingdom though seemingly small and insignificant will eventually grow universally and globally and will transform the whole earth. We can so often feel that renewal and change can never happen we can become disheartened but we are to take heart. This world has a future. God is committed to it. 
  2. We ought not to think that our part in Kingdom business however lowly and unsee will ever be insignificant. Influence in the kingdom is through the small and the hidden. small unseen moments of prayer, love, action, kindness multiplied and blessed by God a billion fold 
  3. You don’t have to be a famous entertainer, sport’s personality or celebrity to influence the world truly for the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God doesn’t work in the same way as the Kingdom of the world. In fact they are opposites. In the Kingdom of God the last are first and greatness is service. We make a grave mistake if we ape the world’s methods. If we try and impress the world by size - big groups, influential names being powerful in our impact. Actually the Kingdom of the world is doomed. Human strength and power fails. [BBCMusic Big music weekend from Belfast - and the piece that the band Public Services Broadcasting commissioned to write about the sinking of the Titanic. This great symbol of human triumph and strength and power. So self confident. Sunk to the bottom of the sea. Promising to bring life it brought death. Inevitable the ways of the Kingdom of the world is the opposite of the way the Kingdom of God works.  Jesus says: I’ll take a mustard seed. I’ll take a yeast cell. I’ll take small. I’ll take the hidden, The obscure, I’ll take seeming uninfluential, i’ll take what seems ridiculous in it’s weakness. I’ll take hardship and i’ll take death and with these things I will change the world. It is always fatal to our spiritual health if we think in any way that we get to God or do things for God by our stengths, by our power and persuasion and ingenuity. Such an approach results in pride if we’re doing well or despair when we fail. God will not allow that. He wants humility and peace and security for us - birds sheltering in his abundat tree. So he never uses human strength for his purposes. He always uses human weakness, smallness, the unimpressive, the hidden. So we’d trust in Him and not in the Kingdom of the world. He uses mustard seeds and yeast cells and so must we. 
  4. It is only as we are mixed in and worked through that we under God’s hand have an impact. A mustard seed left in the packet has no effect. It must be buried, hidden, it must die to bring life. A yeast cell left on the side, on the margin has no impact it must be mixed in and worked through. In the history of christian impact in the world, it’s as Christians have drawn close to the needs of others, issues of the day - not always with wise words or great arguments but with love and selflessness and compassion. small seeds planted that brought great change - the suffragetes, the abolition of slavery, the ragged school movement, the hospice movement. How mixed in are you in your local area? How worked through are you in your community? Salt - another image Jesus uses for his kingdom and his people. Salt, if it is to bring it’s savour and preservative - has to get out of the saltshaker. Many of you are amazing at this. We’re not a ghetto church - a holy huddle - we’re out there. sometimes i wish some of you were here at church more because out there in friendships and professions that I want to see you strengthened and resourced with love from God. But i’m so glad that you are out there. 
  5. This is not a call to political, social and public reform but rather to an application of the gospel that has political and social implications. That’s important. The Kingdom of God work through Christ’s influence on the hearts of people not in ways that are at first external and visible but internal and spiritual. Therefore we don’t seek to effect political change inorder that moral and spiritual good may follow. We seek to preach the gospel inorder that moral and spiritual good will result thereby bringing political change. The message we bring is not economic freedom or political democracy. the message we take is Christ crucified and Christ exalted. we are not called to be a powerful political movement. But as we come to Jesus in prayer and worship and keep going into the world to live lives of love mustard seed and yeast seemingly insignificant, small and weak and hidden - their relentless power begins to grow and pervade all things 


This is the message to those disciples who think when is the Kingdom. where is the kingdom. It’s never gonna happen. Jesus says - the Kingdom is near, the Kingdom is among you - hidden but growing and will one day encompass all things. 


Luke 19:1-10

Last weekend i was stranded in Ireland as storm Ophelia hit the south coast.  - the cancellations, the power cut, the candles, the guiness, the company, the stars. Disruption, danger for many - but for us it was like a gift, an unexpected pleasure, an extra day - when we could do nothing but enjoy each other’s company, amazing conversations… something that changed us a glimmer of grace… 

Grace is a central idea of the Christian good news. 

It describes a gift that is completely unearned, an unexpected, undeserved pleasure that comes into our lives and changes us forever. 

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Luke 11:36-12:12

The comedian Eddie Izzard, who has found time in between running back to back marathons to star in this new film Victorian and Abdul, said this last week in an interview with the Guardian 


“I have a very strong sense that we are only on this planet for a short length of time, And that is only growing. Religious people might think it goes on after death. My feeling is that if that is the case it would be nice if just one person came back and let us know it was all fine, all confirmed. Of all the billions of people who have died, if just one of them could come through the clouds and say, you know, ‘It’s me.., it’s brilliant, there’s a really good spa’, that would be great.”


It reminded me of the place where Jesus tells a story where people who have died tell God to send someone back from the grave to tell people it’s real and Jesus said, even if someone rose from the dead - they wouldn’t believe.. 


There’s something in humanity that avoids Jesus, sidesteps his authority. That’s what we’ve been seeing here in Luke 11. People see his miracles 11v? but then always keep needing more proof or it’s evidence for them that religion is dangerous! manipulative! They find a way of staying in the dark, avoiding the light. 


And in todays passage Jesus exposes and condemns the classic way that we avoid him - RELIGION,  and then offers an antidote - the challenge of GRACE 

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Luke 11:14-28

It’s either seen as something very old fashioned: Victorian children all prim and proper; or something rather stupid - a happy dog looking up at it’s owner. The idea of Obedience 

On holiday in France looking after an enthusiastic french sheep dog. Java. ‘Au Pied’ come straight to your heel! Obedient dogs are great. Obedient childen are great - as long as you don’t crush their spirit. 

But in our culture and day which puts so much emphasis on personal freedom, to be an obedient adult is seen as a very weak thing. Yes you can be a good employee but the idea of being obedient to your faith or your church or your god - that’s seen as seriously suspect. abusive. you’re not thinking for yourself. No, every individual should have the right, within a few limited constraints, to do whatever he or she likes. No-one has the right to tell you what to do. How often do you hear that? 

So the very idea of obedience is disparaged and called into question.. 


Yet, into our culture and into our lives speaks the eternal word of Jesus Christ. The living God come among us as a man says ‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” 

The greatest blessing, joy, privilege, happiness, peace is found in a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. 

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Prayer Luke 11.5-8  

Statistics show that all of us pray at some time. Some of us only pray occasionally when we are in a crisis. Others of us pray a little more frequently. But none of us would say we pray a lot. We are slow to pray. But why? If God is your father and you are his child why wouldn’t you come to God in prayer? There’s only one answer.

It’s the oldest lie in the world. The one that the serpent used in the garden of eden. A lie that runs deep. The lie that God is not good; that he’s mean and doesn’t answer our prayers. Our trials and sufferings and seeming unanswered prayers seem to back up the lie and so we feel that God says, 'No' alot.. And so we don’t pray. 

Jesus realizes this might be an objection to us praying and so in v5-8 he gives us a parable to motivate us to pray by seeing that God will answer when we pray because He must! 

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Prayer Luke 11:2-4

Prayer is a struggle – sometimes we don’t desire to pray, or our prayers seem to go unanswered so long that we lose heart. We don’t know how to pray. We don’t know what to pray.

Jesus gives us a framework for prayer. More crucially there are deep reasons to pray within the framework. Thousands of books written on prayer to help us pray. One of the most prominent recently was spiritual writer, Anne Lamott’s book on prayer entitled. Help, Thanks, Wow: The three essential prayers. 

Jesus’ pattern of prayer is a little different. And, good as Lamott’s writing is, Jesus’ is the pattern worth following. 

Jesus’ pattern is WOW, sorry, please  

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Prayer Luke 11:1-2

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father..."


this is the foundation of all prayer. Father

Jesus doesn’t begin with whats or hows but with who.  If we are ever to truly pray it is not subjects or methods that we need. We need to know who it is that we are invited to pray to.. 


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Luke 10:25-37 

The only dynamic in the world that can motivate this kind of living and loving is Grace. 

In other words - You will never show radical mercy until you have received radical mercy. This is what Jesus is trying to teach the Lawyer here. And it’s what he would teach us. The power to show radical mercy springs from the heart understanding that you, yes you, have been shown radical mercy. You have been the recipient of radical grace, love, help. 

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Luke 10: 1-24 

Every disciple of jesus is given a message to publicly proclaim, to communciate urging everyone to believe it. 

This of course is an incredibly hot issue in our society - 

Anyone claiming that they have the Truth;  saying that their religion is superior and trying to convert people to it is considered at best arrogant and at worst dangerous. The divisiveness of religion is seen as a major threat to world peace. 

And to a certain degree - that fear is absolutely right. There clearly is a danger that religion and ideology can play into the negative human tendencies towards superiority and separation. looking down your nose at ’them’ can lead to the marginalisation of others which can in turn lead to oppression, abuse or even violence against them. 

Our modern society’s solution to this problem is to seek to control religion, to privatise religion and silence the religious. We as western Christians feel this pressure very keenly and largely we bow to it. We are silenced; we bow to the dogma that it’s fine to believe what you want to believe as long as you don’t try to persuade or convert anybody else.. 

But - as we shall see in a bit there are deep internal contradictions and problems with this dogma. 

We shall see in this passage that Christian disciples ARE messengers. It cannot be avoided.  We are 

sent on a Mission 

with a Message 

and yet it is our Motivation that will affect the whole way we go about our mission and ensure that we are never contributors to oppression or abuse of others ..

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Luke 9:43b-62 James May

The future is largely unknown to us, as those of us who followed the Federer, Rafa final today are well aware. We can hope, and we can plan, we can expect, but we can never be sure what is going to happen. We only see life backwards, after the event. 

The question the disciples faced again and again in this passage was should they trust themselves and their ideas for the future, or should they trust Jesus and his plans. 

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Luke 9:28-45

Life, for the most part, is full of stuggles isn’t it? For many in our world right now their lot is extreme poverty and hunger or violence, war, persecution, homelessness and loss. Even if we do not find our selves in such desperate circumstances we all know what it is to struggle - often alone - with disappointments, deep sadnesses, unrealised dreams, broken or difficult relationships, emotional problems, mental or physical illness, addictions and compulsions. Life is full of pains and griefs. 

How are we to think about God and suffering?

Our tendency in our culture is to think that all should be healthy and painless and well. That should be what God would want for us and therefore as contemporary followerers or would-be followers of Jesus Christ when suffering comes we stop trusting that God is in control - he’s absent and we feel that he has abandoned us - He is silent. 

In this section of Luke’s gospel Jesus is teaching his disciples how they are to cope in the real world of spiritual struggle. He’s just told them that suffering is coming - that he - the Christ is going to suffer and die! and following him will mean sacrifice for them. But now he takes his 3 closest followers up the mountain to reassure them that he is always in control and that he is not silent. 

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Luke 9:1-27

There is something in the human spirit, i think, that longs for adventure. Even those of us who just want a quiet life need some sense of purpose and achievement. Most of us are inspired by stories of courage and espionage - spy missions and military successes, we’re exhilharated by the achievements of explorers and adventurers and sportsmen and women. It draws out some desire in us for the same. we might compensate for our lack of adventure by starting a business or taking up an extreme sport, going on exotic holidays, or more negatively having an affair or losing ourselves in online fantasy worlds where we can be the potent hero that we are not in the real world.

We can’t all be james bond but surely we can be heros just for one day? 

Could it be that this sense that we are made for adventure and courage and sacrifice and joy is within us because we are made to be disciples of Jesus Christ? Because as we shall see, the authentic christian life as Jesus presents it to us is a life lived on Mission; an adventure of radical service and sacrifice and joy.

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Luke 8v22-26

We are a culture marked by suppressed fear. A reservoir under surface makes us very Fragile. 

This is what makes this encounter in Luke chapter 8 so essential. Because here we do not find platitudes for feeling better; relaxation techniques - the Bible is not a a little book of calm. On the contrary this passage of Scripture is an encounter with God who drives out fear. If you come to know - better and better - the God of Luke 8. Then you will be able to say with the Psalmist even when your whole world falls apart - we will not fear. 

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Luke 7v36-50 James May

The solitude of crying in our rooms at night on our own seems desperately lonely and tragic. Sometimes this is needed, but it feels healthier to cry with someone close to us, someone who understands us and what we feel. The word, ‘cry’ has the sense of crying out, of expressing outwardly what is happening inside us. Tears are physical expressions of internal sorrow andthey literally flow out from within us.  If we are fortunate we may have people close to us to share our pains and sorrows with. However, as a GP I know that many people can't or don’t do this...

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Luke 7v18-35

Sometimes we are tempted to question whether the coming of Jesus has really made a huge difference. The world goes on just as it always has.. perhaps some things are better, perhaps some things are worse. 

For many people this is reason enough to keep God at arms length, to reject him. If really came at all he certainly hasn’t done anything. He hasn’t solved our problems. He hasn’t done the thing we most need. The things we’d want him to do. 

For others of us. We don’t reject God perhaps but the lack of seeming change in the world and in our own lives creates doubts. Has anything really changed? It’s not what we expected. Is Jesus really who he said he was. The long awaited Messiah. God’s King. God’s Son in human flesh, The Son of Man come to save??

These were the exact kinds of questions that John the Baptist had and that we’ve read about in our reading today. 

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