Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost Devotional
Psalm 51, Luke 15

Lectionary Text for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost:

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 51:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

Psalm 51:1-10: To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
     according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
     blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
     and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions,
     and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
     and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
     and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
     a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being;
     therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
     wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
     let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
     and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
     and put a new and right spirit within me.

Luke 15:1-10: “Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them. 3 So he told them this parable: 4 Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

8 Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: Verse four immediately caught my attention. I’ve condensed this verse to focus on the part that I believe is the core of the matter. “Which one of you…(goes) after the one that is lost until he finds it?” “What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them…(searches) carefully until she finds it?

Who will go the extra mile? How long is your patience? Does your perseverance match your desire to rescue? Does intolerance interfere with creative ways of reaching out? Can arrogance override caring? Will pride and self-centeredness blind us from recognizing genuine contrition in someone like that of David who wrote Psalm 51?

The circumstance that produced this psalm was David’s committing adultery and attempting to cover it up with murder. David laments, “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.” (v. 4) This statement places David squarely in the category of ‘sinner’. These were the people who were drawn to Jesus and those that the Pharisees were grumbling about. But just in case you or I think, “Well I’ve not committed adultery or murder,” think again. In Matthew chapter five, Jesus taught that anger is tantamount to murder. There we learn that words “kill, “which makes gossip a murder weapon. Last, but not least, Jesus also taught that adultery begins with a glance.

A little while ago I was watching a drama on TV, which featured a scene from Shakespeare’s’ “Merchant of Venice.” There stood Portia in the courtroom pleading her case saying, “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” I was struck by the words, “twice blessed,” meaning mercy is immediately reciprocal, shared between the one who gives and the one who receives. Portia, in her speech, actually calls mercy and attribute of God.

In both parables I believe Jesus presents us with a model of the nature and work of mercy. First, mercy draws those who need it into our personal spaces. Second, it empowers our wills for sacrifice, to walk the extra mile, to persevere against the odds, etc., knowing there is a double blessing. Thirdly, mercy generates rejoicing when what was lost is found. Mercy produces celebration not cynicism, gaiety not guilt. Just think, because of mercy jealousy and joy cannot occupy the same space.

O God, when Jesus was nailed to the cross on Calvary, you showed us the length and breadth of mercy, for David and all who cry out to you, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Because of resurrection we ask, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and right spirit within me.”

Be Blessed in Ordinary Times
Rev. Julia
©August 27, 2010

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