Luke 15: I’ve found my lost sheep!

‘Supposing one of you has a hundred sheep,’ he said, ‘and you lose one of them. What will you do? Why, you’ll leave the ninety-nine out in the countryside, and you’ll go off looking for the lost one until you find it! And when you find it, you’ll be so happy – you’ll put it on your shoulders and come home, and you’ll call your friends and neighbours in. “Come and have a party!” you’ll say. “Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!”

‘Well, let me tell you: that’s how glad they will be in heaven over one sinner who repents – more than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.

Luke 15:4-7, New Testament for Everyone

Online service today

I enjoyed today’s Church of England Pentecost Sunday service.

45 mins including a Homily from Pope Francis; readings from Down’s Syndrome advocate Heidi Crowter and Methodist Youth president Thelma Commey; a Creed led by The Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Archbishop Angaelos; prayers from Agu Irukwu, the Pentecostal president of Churches Together in England; and worship led by Matt Redman.

It is still available to watch at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online. It’s also available there as an audio file, or to read as a pdf.

Psalm 73: When my skin sags

You’re all I want in heaven!
    You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
    God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
    Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
    oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do!

Psalm 73:26-28, The Message 

Image from UCB.co.uk.

Pete Grieg: More grace in God than sin in you

It doesn’t matter what you’ve said or done, what you’ve thought about saying or doing; where you’ve been or who you’ve been there with – there is more grace in God than sin in you. ‘He … always forgives’, says Pope Francis, ‘we get tired of asking forgiveness.’ 

You cannot be too bad, too broken, or too boring for God’s unconditional love, only too proud to acknowledge how desperately you need it. Ask and you will receive. Take one step towards the Father and he’ll come running toward you. Splutter that unconvincing apology and he’ll hug you silent.’ 

Pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”—twelve words—and he’ll do it. He’ll forgive you. Just like that. He’ll wipe the slate clean. Here, then, is the gospel at the heart of Christ’s manifesto: If we confess our sins to the Father, asking for his grace, we will be forgiven. Or, as the apostle John puts it elsewhere, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Taken from How to Pray by Pete Grieg.

To always pray and not give up

Jesus chooses a familiar character as the underdog in the story of the widow in Luke 18:1-7. In the culture of the time, widows would have had low standing and few legal rights. The system was stacked against them. And yet the woman Jesus describes overcame her cultural expectation and injustice through dogged determination.

The point of the parable is clear in the first sentence: ‘to always pray and not give up.’ Some translations say ‘not lose heart’. What are the areas in my life that I used to pray for, but have given up or lost heart?

God, I hold them before You now, and ask for the grace to keep persevering in prayer.

When I look around the world, systems of injustice can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. And yet Jesus says these can be overcome by prayer. Who can I think of who is facing injustice? People like widows, orphans, migrant workers, refugees, prostituted men, women and children.

God, bring specific people to my mind so I can pray for them now. Help us all to be persistent in the pursuit of justice, and never give up.

This story implies that even prayers in keeping with God’s will are not always answered straight away. Sometimes, waiting for an answer we desperately want can be extremely painful. When I tire of waiting, I remember the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome: ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:12).

Taken from Lectio 365, CWR and 24/7 Prayer.

Brian Zahnd: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

In the first chapter of his 2017 book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Church leader Brian Zahnd writes:

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It’s a Puritan classic.  An American greatest hit. A revered revivalist text. I had my own handmade copy. I assembled photocopies of this 250-year-old sermon into a homemade booklet. This was back when cutting and pasting were done with scissors and glue. I carefully collated and stapled the twenty pages. My favourite passages were highlighted in bright pink. I provided it with a blue card-stock cover. The title was handwritten with a heavy black marker: “Sinners in the Hands of an ANGRY GOD.”  Yes, I wrote ANGRY GOD in all caps. Thirty years later I still have this artefact from my angry-God days. It serves as a reference point to give perspective on my long spiritual journey away from an angry, violent, retributive God toward the God who is revealed by Jesus as our loving Father.
I fashioned my handmade copy of Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon because I was fascinated by it.