Scripture readings for 9/15
The readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost describe God’s powerful desire to rescue sinners who have walked away from him. Human beings are so dear to him that he sent his own Son to find them and sacrifice himself to bring them home again.
- The Gospel reading shows God’s desire to seek and save those who are lost, and his great rejoicing when they repent.
- The Old Testament reading is God’s promise to rescue his abused people and shepherd them himself.
- The New Testament reading tells about one lost sinner that God found and saved—St. Paul, whom God then used to find and save even more people.
The Gospel reading:
Jesus told these two parables to some Pharisees who criticized him for associating with notorious offenders of God’s holy law. The Pharisees quarantined those people, fearing infection. They could not understand how someone pure and healthy could want to walk into an isolation ward. They did not have the love or medicine to give those patients nor the vaccine to preserve themselves. But Jesus was the physician who boldly went to those sinners so that his health might overcome their disease, his purity overcome their uncleanness, his righteousness overcome their sin. He created the antidote to death from his own flesh and blood.
We are tempted to be like the Pharisees, picking people to put on the irrecoverable list without making the effort to seek and save. But in these parables Jesus shows us the seeking love of God going out to find the wanderer before he could find himself or find God. He shamed those Pharisees, holding up their attitude of discontent for comparison with the liberal joy of the angels and God himself.
The Old Testament reading:
The lost sheep parable Jesus used in the Gospel reading is a familiar picture from the Old Testament, for example, in this reading from Ezekiel. Since the time of David, Israel had called her kings “shepherds.” The men who followed in King David’s line, however, did not shepherd Israel in the paths of God. Therefore God had scattered the flock, letting them be captured by other false shepherds like the kings of Assyria and Babylon. In this prophecy, God made a promise: he would personally seek and save his flock and bring them back to their land once more. He said, “I will guide them; I will guard them; I will seek them; I will find them.”
The leaders of the Jews in Jesus’ day were also false shepherds. Not only were they not bringers-back of the strayed nor binders-up of the broken nor seekers of the lost, but they murmured against the man who was. Jesus did what they had neglected to do. In spite of troubles we may face in life, our future is bright under King David’s greater son and our true Good Shepherd.
The New Testament reading:
1 Timothy 1:12-17
St. Paul had formerly been one of those false shepherd Pharisees, persecuting and abusing the flock rather than taking care of it. He was even worse than the one straying sheep or the one lost coin. But Jesus came and found him and turned him around. His own experience proves that Christ’s plan to save sinners applies to everyone.
The most marvelous thing God has done is to bring St. Paul, together with you and me, to faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior from sin. We are all now seekers and savers of the lost. Let us always be like St. Paul, who never forgot the grace shown to him, and so was always ready to love the lost with Christ’s seeking and forgiving love.