Trinity 3 (Lk 15:1–10)
INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: We’re all tribal.))
We’re all tribal. That’s the problem in the world. Tribalism. Isolated items broken off into groups who look, act, think, and do the same way you do.
So you get the pharisees in our text. That’s how they were with the Tax Collectors and sinners. Sinners were those who lived “that way.” You know. Could be the prostitutes, the drunks, the divorced, the fill in the blank. That was the Pharisees.
So you get us, too. We break off. We isolate ourselves. Them and us. Us is everyone who agrees with us, well, agrees with me, right? They talk, act, think, work, and do like I do. Family, friends. Those people who are “them” can become part of “us.” They’ve just gotta acclimate, gotta change their way of doing things, change their thinking. Then that person can join “us,” and only then we’ll love them, be kind to them, and not only treat them like they matter, but actually think and feel like they matter.
((4. Ugh!: But there’s only one tribe—sinner!))
The real problem with all this isn’t that it’s unloving. It is that. But the real problem with this tribal way of thinking is that it’s not reality. The reality is far worse than just our cliques and groups and echo chambers. The reality is this: we’re all part of one tribe. And this isn’t just some confession that we’re all human beings. That’s true. But no, the hard reality and the ugly truth is this: there’s only one tribe—sinner!
That’s what the Pharisees rejected. They were holy and right and good, and those tax collectors and sinners weren’t. They could be like the Pharisees, but they just had to live and do and act like the Pharisees. Tow the line. Then they, too, could be holy and right and good. Us, too, as I said before. We’re right. They’re wrong. I’m good. You’re not so good. Pick whatever way you want. It doesn’t even have to be with religious stuff. Politics, school, parenting, sports, how you dress.
All of this is sin. Adam and Eve were at peace and unity with God and with each other. Then they separated themselves from the Lord, and then they were separated and isolated from each other. Sin and laws never unify. They only create division. There’s only those who do and those who don’t. Those who don’t are sinners, are them and not us. To separate yourself from someone else, no matter how justified you think it is, that just confesses your own separation from God and His love in Jesus Christ.
((3. Aha!: Jesus breaks into that tribe.))
The reality, again, is that we’re all in this together. We’re all part of the same tribe—sinner. We’re all part of those who “don’t do,” and thankfully our God does not act like we do. If anyone had the right to, it would’ve been Him. In our text we see that our God Jesus breaks into that tribe of sinners.
That’s actually what makes the God of the Bible different from every other false god out there. Every other false god is some tribe’s god, and that god will maybe save you, protect you, bless you if you think, act, and do according to his or her way of doing things.
But the Lord God is born in the form of servant. He breaks into our world, and God Himself thinks, acts, and does according to His way of doing things. He does that for you. Not only that when He comes He “receives sinners and eats with them.” He shares His table, throws a party with sinners.
((2. Whee!: JESUS SAVES/REPENTS SINNERS.))
JESUS SAVES SINNERS. That’s reality. God says He’s on the side of sinners to save them, not to guilt trip them, not to preach moral improvement. He preaches salvation in Himself alone. JESUS SAVES SINNERS. He came in the form of a servant and He died. He died as the Sinner for all sinners. He took their sins as His own. That’s how JESUS SAVES SINNERS. Saves you.
But He doesn’t just save them. When JESUS SAVES SINNERS, that means He also repents them. He brings them to Himself. The lost sheep is just carried back. The lost coin is just put back in the money bag. This is repentance in our text: JESUS SAVES SINNERS. That’s how repentance is described by Jesus Himself! What does a lost sheep do to be found? Not much. What about a lost coin? Even less—nothing! JESUS SAVES SINNERS. He repents them. Brings them back.
And the party is and will be over the top. Think about the parables. Jesus was partying with sinners. He SAVES THEM, brings them to Himself, and then He hosts the party. He receives them, receives you, and He then eats with them, eats with you. Then He tells a parable about a shepherd who throws a party over one lost sheep. (A party where you’d probably slaughter a sheep to eat.) A woman finds a coin, and hosts a celebratory get together that costs more than the coin she found. It’s all a bit over the top.
And it is! JESUS SAVES SINNERS. He’s the price. He dies. He brings sinners to Himself. He baptizes them. He gives out His body and blood—a Supper of suppers. And the only way to have an over-the-top celebration after God dying is to have an eternal feast that has no end.
((1. Yeah!: There really is only one tribe—those redeemed by Christ.))
The reality of life is this: We’re all in this together. We’re all sinners. But Jesus breaks in. He breaks down the walls of separation. JESUS SAVES SINNERS! And that really means there’s no longer us and them, you and me. There is only those for whom Jesus died.
Every person you see with your two eyes—no matter who they are—is someone for whom Jesus died. He bled for them. He died for them. He would draw them to Himself, baptize them, He would feed them with His body and blood. No matter who you see, who you hear, who you can reach out and touch—that’s A SINNER JESUS SAVES. That’s someone Jesus came for so that He—God Himself—would be kind, loving, and merciful to them. Even forgiving what they did to wrong Him! Because they matter to Him. He still does that. He does it for you, and He does it through you.
We live in a world of us and them. But that’s not reality. That’s the delusion of sin. The reality is we’re all part of the same tribe—sinner. JESUS SAVES SINNERS. Which means we’re all part of the same tribe—people for whom Jesus bled and died. He unites sinners to Himself and unites sinners together in Holy Baptism, and He bodies and bloods us together in faith toward God and in love toward each other in His Supper.
INI + AMEN.