October 2017  
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9-10-17 Sermon

Our Gospel reading today is in three distinct parts.                                                                                 

 It opens with the disciples asking Jesus-- again, who will be greatest. Jesus explains to them the need to be like a little child. Then there is a warning about sin, and the alarming words of Our LORD, to “cut off” the offending member of our bodies. This selection then closes with a brief parable about a shepherd, who searches for a lost sheep.  The three sections-- as different as they seem to be, do have one thing in common.                                                                                                                      

In the beginning of this chapter, the disciples are asking about being the greatest--again. This inherent trait of humanity since the fall, continues today: The greatest athlete. The best singer. Top sales person, competitions of one kind or another in most all walks of life.  So the disciples want to be the greatest in CHRIST’s kingdom-- like the Pharisees, they were seeking a position of importance. But notice how Jesus answers them:      He calls over a child, and says they—the disciples should become like a little child.  Literally, Jesus tells them to stop—take a look at yourself.   You’re going the wrong way. Your thinking is way off track. In fact, unless you humble yourselves, you won’t even BE in the kingdom.  Humility doesn’t include boasting, bragging, putting others down or using condescending remarks about someone else.    Humility is seeking to be used for God’s purpose and His glory—that’s how Mary responded when the angel Gabriel told her that she would be the mother of our Savior.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Jesus goes on to say: “these little ones—Be careful not to look down on them, or disregard them. These little ones are not just children, but the “little ones of faith-- the little ones who believe in Me: Those new to the faith, those not trying to be number one.     And if they are important to God, who are we to regard them as unimportant.                                                 

In the second section of this text, Jesus talks of the woes of sin. He tells us, “If your hand sins against you, cut it off.  For it is better to go into life with 1 hand, than go to hell with 2.     Jesus is telling us that we need to look carefully  at what we are doing. Examine your hearts and minds.  That’s where sin resides. Our hands or eyes are only the tools to implement the sin within us.                                                                                                                

If amputation were the solution, God the Father would not have needed to send Jesus.  CHRIST would not have been crucified. We cannot separate ourselves from our own sin. CHRIST took our sin, the sin which separates us from God, that we might be one with Him and the Father. Not number one. But united--together.                         

Jesus is illustrating two points. First, that sin is real and very serious business and that we ought be willing to pay any price to be rid of it. Isn’t humility a better alternative than amputation? Yet our selfish pride won’t let us do that, will it?   Pride gets in the way of relationships, forgiveness, and mission.                                                                                       

The second point is that God values our unity as His church—as His witness here on earth.  God forbid that we would ever cause someone to stumble, or lead someone into sin by our actions or how we live our lives, placing a tremendous responsibility upon parents.                                                                                                                                                                            

The final section of this text is the parable of the shepherd. But even when one is missing, He goes and finds the sheep, and rejoices greatly. More so than over the 99 he still has.                                                                                                                           

Because of our jealous nature, does that mean one particular sheep is so much more valuable than the others? No, each sheep is equally valuable to the shepherd, as we are all equally valuable to the LORD God. The shepherd rejoices because the lost sheep is found, and back where it should be-- with the shepherd and the rest of the flock. The flock is unified as one -- not number one.                                   

That one sheep-- trying to be number one, did what it wanted to do—much like all of us.  Isn’t that what got the sheep lost in the first place?  This text is very similar to that of the prodigal son, and Father running out to greet his wayward boy.  There was much rejoicing.   But not for the older jealous son. He complained about all he had done. He was still trying to be number one. Instead of being one – with his Father and with his brother – he wanted to be the only one and now found himself all alone.                  

CHRIST has redeemed us from our arrogance; He has saved us from self destruction and He has found us, bringing us home.  He has made us His Church. He has taken the sin—our sin that separates us from the Father, and from each other.  It is only by His grace and love that we may love Him, and one another, making us One body--One flock--With the One and only shepherd—Jesus CHRIST. Amen