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The ultimate cause for celebration: changing lives for the better

October 7, 2023

Daily Scripture

Luke 15:1-2, 6-7, 9-10, 22-24, 31-32

1 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

6 When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.

9 When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Jesus told the three stories in Luke 15 to “tax collectors and sinners,” people who had given up on God. Why not? They thought God had given up on them. The “church people” they knew criticized Jesus for even talking to them (Luke 15:1-2). But Jesus also told the stories to those very church people (who were sinners too, after all!). All three stories said nothing sets off more celebrating in heaven than when even one of God’s wandering children comes back to God. Not intimidated in the least by his self-righteous critics, Jesus told them God throws a party for every lost “sheep,” “coin” or most of all “child” found. When he spoke of “ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives,” we can be quite sure he was using irony to describe the critics’ attitude. He knew Pharisees needed finding, too—but, sadly, they didn’t know it.

  • Scholar N. T. Wright noted that in Jesus’ third story (Luke 15:11-24), “In a culture where senior figures are far too dignified to run anywhere, this man takes to his heels as soon as he sees his young son dragging himself home.” * This is one of Jesus’ best pictures of what God is truly like. Do you picture God as intimidating, looking sternly down on you? Or can you see God as a loving parent always eager to run and embrace you? Think of a time when you helped celebrate good news for a family member or friend. What was the cause? What was the celebration like? Have you ever gotten to celebrate that someone you care about has “changed both heart and life”? What are your inner feelings if someone you don’t like very much makes that change? How does realizing your need for a Savior empower you to rejoice when others turn to God? How sure are you that God wants to and will work through you, and Resurrection, to reach many people in Kansas City and beyond?

Lord Jesus, I want to “enter in” to the joy of your kingdom and celebrate what you are doing in other’s lives. Move me from a “tit for tat” existence to an exuberant, abundant life. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Brent Messick

Brent Messick

Brent Messick, now retired, was formerly Church of the Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director of Operations.

I play the alto saxophone.  Not as a professional, but as an amateur.  Like several musicians I have come to know, I played a musical instrument through school.  Then I quit playing it so that I could focus on my family and my business career.  When I retired 40 years later, I took up playing the instrument again.
The last 15 years of my career was spent working at the Church of the Resurrection.  During my tenure, I became intrigued with the church orchestra.  Kevin Bogan is the Director of Traditional Worship at the church.  I would tease Kevin about joining the orchestra. I say “teasing”, because I hadn’t played in years and I didn’t feel qualified to play in the orchestra.  Yet, Kevin was very encouraging of me to play my saxophone in the orchestra.
I retired from my career at Resurrection in October 2018.  In 2019, I tried to start playing the saxophone again.  It was pretty ugly.  I felt like one of the lost sheep in today’s Scripture passage.  But with Kevin’s encouragement, I took a bold step, and he welcomed me in the orchestra.
Kevin’s encouragement and welcoming spirit reminds me of the story of the prodigal son, which is also part of today’s Scripture passage.  This story reminds me of God’s love for all of us, rather we are lost or not.
There are many very talented musicians and singers in the church orchestra and choir (yours truly not included).  Their music is inspirational and helps draw people nearer to God.  Consequently, I believe I have a responsibility to improve my saxophone playing ability so that I can contribute to the church’s “ministry of music”.  Accordingly, I have been taking lessons and practicing regularly.
Similarly, we have a responsibility to God.  He loves us and forgives us for our past sins.  However, God’s love and forgiveness do not give us a “hall pass” to keep sinning willfully.  In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus tells us we must have a change of heart and life.  Even though we are still going to stumble and fall short, our hearts should be in the right place as we strive to live a Christ-like life.  God blesses us so that we can be a blessing for Him and a blessing to others.
© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 188.