Fourth Sunday of Lent – March 31, 2019

4LC19. Joshua 5:9a, 10-12. God has led the Israelite people across the Jordan. Then “the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I understand the ‘reproach’ that God has removed to be the shame, disgrace or dishonor of their subjection to a state of slavery to the Egyptians. God’s promise to give them a land overflowing with milk and honey is now in the process of being fulfilled. Their exodus from Egypt began with the celebration of the Passover and now ends outside Jericho with that same celebration. God’s loving mercy has powerfully delivered what was tragically lost to become something whole, holy and new: the Israelite People in possession of their own land.

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. Jesus answers the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes that “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” in this 15th chapter of Luke with three parables. The first two parables in Luke 15:4-10 of the ‘Lost Coin’ and the ‘Lost Sheep’ (which are not included in this Sunday’s reading) come to the same conclusion as the third parable of the ‘Prodigal or Lost Son’: God rejoices that those who were lost to sin are now found so that they can return to a proper relationship with God, holiness. The younger son on demanding that he now get his inheritance without having to wait until his father dies is in effect saying to his father ‘as far as I am concerned I now consider you dead’. He then leaves to squander his part of his family’s hard earned fortune on a period of dissipation with prostitutes. Penniless, with nothing to eat, he decides to return to his father, no longer as his son since he had considered his father as dead to get his inheritance, but as a hired hand. On his return, “while he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.” Although the younger son just tries to get a job from his father, the father will have nothing of that since he loves his son so deeply. He welcomes his son with the finest robe, a ring, sandals and a spectacular feast, since his son “was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” It struck me that this will be the kind of celebration that there will be when a repentant sinner gets to heaven. In Jesus’ three parables in Luke 15 those who were lost but whom Jesus is now seeking to have returned to a state of holiness are analogous to the sinners that the Pharisees and the scribes are complaining about. In turn the older son is analogous to the Pharisees and the scribes who have always been obedient to the Law. Jesus is saying that they should be of the same mind as the father in the parable who rejoices at the return of the sinner to be reconciled to God, the Father. As God’s love is merciful, so should we be.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21. “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” The question is what does it mean to be “in Christ.” 1 John 4:16 says, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” Whoever remains in God’s love for us remains in God. 1 John 5:12 says, “Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.” I have God; God has me. Without God, life is as material life is, that ends in rot. In John 6:53b, Jesus says “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” In John 6:56, Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” To be “in Christ,” means that Christ is our life; neither we nor anything or anyone is our life but Christ. Christ is everything for us; anything or anyone else is nothing to us, except to the degree that we relate to it or them out of our relationship to Christ. Carrying that a step further is to say, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” Since we have found such peace, joy and truth from our life in Christ, we ought to strive to bring everyone into that same relationship with Christ. As we are in Christ, everyone should also be in Christ. We are ambassadors from a spiritual world to a people who belong in heart and mind to an earthly world that does not relate to spiritual reality. We have the ministry of reconciliation, i.e. to reconcile or re-establish the proper relationship between God and ourselves and others around us, to bring, not only ourselves but, all to be in Christ.