Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our loving and compassionate God seeks out sinners to forgive them – and that’s a good thing!
Undaunted you seek the lost, O God, exultant you bring home the found. Touch our hearts with grateful wonder at the tenderness of your forbearing love. Grant us delight in the mercy that has found us and bring all to rejoice at the feast of forgiveness. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” – Don Moen
A Reading from the Old Testament: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 (NLT)
[God relents in response to pleas for leniency.]
The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”
Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.”
But Moses tried to pacify the Lord his God. “O Lord!” he said. “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand?
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”
So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.
A Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19 (NLT)
[We ask for God’s mercy, as prodigals turning to our loving Father.]
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
Choneni Elohim, from Psalm 51 (Be Gracious to me O G-d) – Christene Jackman
A Reading from the Letters: 1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NLT)
[Paul insists that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, people like Paul himself.]
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.
A Reading from the Gospels: Luke 15:1-32 (NLT)
[Jesus tells a series of stories that illustrate God stretching out his hand to sinners.]
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
The Story of the Lost Sheep
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
The Story of the Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
The Story of the Lost Son
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
“You Have Searched Me” – Citizens & Saints
You have searched me, and known my heart | Before I spoke, you knew my every thought | The wonder of Your knowledge is, Far too high, for me, to understand | You knew I’d leave your side | And cower in the cover of the night | But there’s no place I could hide, | from the mercy of your light
Your kindness leads me, to repentance, Your grace assures me, to trust in You
I could climb up, into the sky | Or dive down deep, where darkest evil lies | I’ll never find a place to flee, Your presence is, always, where I am, | You never leave my side
Even when I fight to get my way | You patiently disarm my defenses with your grace
Your kindness leads me, to repentance, Your grace assures me, to trust in You | Faithful Savior, You restore me | My life is Yours, I belong to You | Search my heart and examine my thoughts | Shine Your light, I can’t hide in the dark | Give me faith, to respond when You call | Search my heart
Your kindness leads me, to repentance, Your grace assures me, to trust in You | Faithful savior, You restore me | My life is Yours, I belong to You
Great and compassionate God: you welcome us into your presence through our Lord Jesus Christ. Hear the cries of our hearts as we bring our needs to You –
+ That believers everywhere may experience your healing love, particularly when they fail…. Lord, hear us.
+ That the consecration of Mother Teresa of Calcutta may remind the world to show mercy to the least, the lost, and the last among us…. Lord, hear us.
+ That believers everywhere will learn what mercy means and live it out in our daily lives…. Lord, hear us.
+ That migrants seeking shelter, safety, and a new place to live may experience generosity and kindness…. Lord, hear us.
+ That people who believe they are beyond the reach of your mercy may experience your intervention and compassion…. Lord, hear us.
+ That all who live in loneliness may be cared for by believers in their local communities…. Lord, hear us.
+ That those who have died in Christ may know the joy of your presence. We remember especially those lost in the terror attacks in New York, 15 years ago today…. Lord, hear us.
O God, in your kindness, you blot out our sins and failings: hear our humble prayers, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
“One Thing Remains” – Kristian Stanfill
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. – Romans 8:33-34
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen