We are going to make the party in heaven that Jesus talked about in Luke 15. I’m guessing they probably have a bigger party than this, but we can get the idea.
You will need
- Magic slates (from party shops or cheap kids’s toys)
- Party ‘whizzers’ or any other fun things
Divide the people into small groups and give one person in each group a magic slate. The rest of the group can have party things.
Hand the magic slate around the group. Each person can think of something they regret and draw a sad face on the slate.
When everyone has done this, hand the slate back to the original person and start a countdown. On zero, the person with the magic slate should wipe away the sins from the slate, and everyone else should whizz their whizzers, toot their tooters and twirl their twirlers.
Yesterday I failed. I failed God big time. I did something that I will probably regret for the rest of my life. I will remember it and the memory will sting. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t push a granny under a bus or anything. In the grand scheme of the the world it was a nothing. But it was a something to me and it was a something to my daughter.
I can see the look on her face. She will remember too, and that is what saddens me most. I have created a memory there. The memory will probably outlive me, and it’s not the kind of legacy I’d want.
Our readings are about more people with regrets. Big regrets. We read the words of Paul and David – two towering saints of God – and we can see them shaking their heads in sorrow and shame, as do I.
Actually, I was wrong in that first paragraph when I said that it was nothing like pushing a granny under a bus. It was. In the courts of eternity it counts exactly the same. There are no big sins and little sins; no sins that matter and sins that are OK really. They are all big sins.
David did something that was pretty much like pushing a granny under a bus. He arranged to have Uriah murdered because he’d just got Uriah’s wife pregnant. That was a big sin. Paul searched out heretical Jews (aka Christians) to have them hauled off to prison and stoned to death. That was a big sin. I didn’t have anyone killed, but it doesn’t matter. It was a big sin. They are all big sins. I am deeply ashamed of myself.
This morning my daughter came downstairs and I was waiting for her. ‘I should not have done that’, I said, ‘I am deeply ashamed. Please forgive me.’ ‘It’s OK’, she said as she hugged me. ‘It’s not OK’, I replied, ‘but thank you for saying that it is.’ Then we played cards and ate cake.
But being forgiven does not wipe my memory, neither should it, otherwise, how can I learn? I still remember and regret my action. Same as Paul, the blasphemer. Same as David, the adulterer. Psalm 51 did not bring Uriah back to life. Let us add Moses, the murderer. Abraham, the liar. Jacob, the con-man. Samson, the thug. Peter, the braggart. Zacchaeus, the cheat. It seems that I have plenty of company in my failure.
So what does God think of this catalogue of miserable sinners? We read it in our Luke passage. Astoundingly, amazingly, unbelievably, God is pleased! Yes, that’s what it says. There is no hint, not one, of the shepherd grumbling over the sheep or complaining that he has to go and find it. There is no sense of annoyance of the woman searching for her coin. We read of perseverance, care and attention, and rejoicing when it is found, but never are either the shepherd of the woman cross with the lost thing.
Just after this passage comes the famous Lost Son parable. All three are making the same point, and the fact that it is repeated three times should tell us that this is important. So here’s the point: The father is in no way angry with the son, despite all he has done to deserve it.
How does God feel about me, the sinner? How did God feel about Paul, the sinner? And David, the sinner? And Moses and Saul and Abraham and all of them, all of us? Beyond comprehension, he is pleased. More than pleased, he throws a party.
God would far rather have one miserable sinner turn to him for forgiveness than see ninety-nine good people go about their good lives and never needing him because they’re good enough on their own.
The church has never been a place for good people. It’s a place for broken, hurting, ordinary people – just like you and me. And God rejoices.
Let us meditate on the wonderful truths in these verses:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
O King eternal,
To you, only God,
To you be honour,
To you be glory,
for ever and ever.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 New International Version
The Lord’s Grace to Paul
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 51:1-10 New International Version
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Luke 15:1-10 New International Version
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
New International Version (NIV)
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