Part 1 - Storytelling
You know that moment when the story sneaks through your ribs and squeezes your heart tight for a second and you know that it was meant for you. The world for you changes in that moment.
True stories are wonderful. It is encouraging to hear testimonies, to know that I am not alone in my feelings, my experiences. But sometimes I get caught up in the details of the other persons' story. I lose sight of the real truth while analyzing how different I am from the person giving the testimony, how their experience is different because of the details.
This is one of the reasons I love fiction and have begun writing novels. I love having my blog as a place to write about what I am learning, how God is working in my life, but there is something incredibly freeing about writing fiction, to tell the truth without worrying about hurt feelings or fact checking - to just tell the story. I love to read fiction as well. I love books that are comfortable, that remind me of truths I believe. I love a good romance where pride and prejudice are taken down by unexpected love. I like stories of friendships that have people rising up to care for one another, where love conquers all. I like stories of good defeating evil after an epic battle that reminds us that we need to do the right thing.
But then there are stories that make me see something in a new way, that change the way I view the world, or my corner of it. Books that introduce me to new worlds or new ideas. I remember reading the Hunger Games and having my mind shocked by the story but even more so by how easily our world could turn on one another, how propaganda and fear and our survival instincts can turn children against each other.
One of the things I love about Luke is the stories Jesus tells. During Jesus’ ministry, the time between the baby Jesus story and the Jesus on the Cross story, he spent time healing the sick, preaching on the Mount, building relationships and telling stories. Luke 15 includes three stories that Jesus tells. The first two verses set the scene for us.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”Jesus' audience was made up of two groups of people - the sinners and the religious. The tax collectors, the sinners, were Jews who had betrayed their own people by working for the Romans. Not only did they collect taxes but they typically demanded more than was due. They stole from their own people on the authority of their oppressor. They were seen as some of the worst sinners and yet, Jesus ate with them.
The other group listening was the righteous, at least that is how they saw themselves - the teachers of the law, the Pharisees. They followed God’s laws even more than God himself had required of them.
These two groups of people were gathered together listening to this man Jesus and instead of explaining himself, instead of telling why he was eating with sinners he told three stories.
Jesus begins with two stories, simple ones that everyone could relate to.
Luke 15: 2 - 10
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”I have lost things before and to be honest, the amount I time I spend searching for it depends on the items value to me. My cell phone... I will look for hours, trekking back to places I have left to find it. A lost library book... well, I might look through the house once or twice. I will check under the seats of the car. I will ask my kids to look again. But at some point, I am willing to give up and pay the $35 for the lost Billy the Kid biography we checked out for a school project.
Honestly, the value of the item is not determined by its monetary worth, but by my willingness to keep searching, to continue pursuing after what is lost even at a cost to myself.
Jesus tells these two stories of chasing down the lost, pursuing the sheep that wandered away, of finding the coin that was lost in its own home, to remind us how much the Father loves us, the lost. It is the pursuit that shows our value. And God will keep looking for us until we are found.
“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...”
I sang that song in Sunday school as a small child and I believed it - wholly. If you had asked me about Jesus as a small girl, I would have known that he loved me, that he saved me, that he lived in my heart. I would have told you about the love of the shepherd for the lost sheep, that God will pursue us into the wilderness. I knew my value as a child of God.