Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This morning I wish to provide an overview of the Afterlife as Christians understand it. In this overview, I wish to focus on the four H’s (Heaven, Hell, Hades, and Hallmark) and how these four H’s tie together. I also wish to look at our common misunderstandings about each of these four H’s.
Let us begin by considering Heaven. A few years ago, a widely popular book called Heaven is For Real was published. Heaven is for Real tells the story of a 4 year old, Nebraska boy named Colton Burpo who on account of a ruptured appendix nearly dies. But where the story takes a really interesting turn is a few months after being released from the hospital, Colton began describing to his parents a visit he made to Heaven while in surgery even though he never actually died.
Colton described hovering outside his own body in the hospital watching his Mom talk on the phone, while witnessing his Dad praying and yelling at God for the turmoil he was going through. Colton described meeting his sister in heaven (whom he had never heard about it, having died in his mother’s womb). Colton then describes meeting his great-grandpa who has insights into his father that he couldn’t have possibly known before.
Colton claimed to have met biblical characters like Jesus’ cousin (John the Baptist) and the Archangel Gabriel who sat at the left hand of God the Father. Colton described meeting Jesus who still had the marks of crucifixion on his hands and feet. Colton described seeing all sorts of animals in heaven. Colton said that in Heaven that no one was old nor wore glasses.
A lot of the book consists of Colton’s Dad, a Wesleyan Minister, trying to reconcile Colton’s experiences of Heaven with what is taught in the scriptures. The Rev. Todd Burpo concludes that it all matches up in a way that no four year old child could have ever figured out on his own. A book like this that makes so many claims about the afterlife is worthy of reflection. What should be pointed out whenever someone claims to have gone to Heaven is that this is not exactly a new phenomenon.
In the 18th Century there was a man named Emanuel Swedenborg who claimed to have been given permission to freely travel back and forth to Heaven over 28 years. When Swedenborg returned from his journeys, much of what he claimed to have learned stood in direct contrast to Christianity. It would be easy to dismiss Swedenborg as a nut. Yet is should be noted that Swedenborg’s teaching about the afterlife influenced was well-received by some of the most influential people of his days such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.
Within recent years, the International Association of Near Death Studies has documented over 900 incidents of similar experiences as portrayed in the book Heaven is For Real. These experiences have existed across a wide variety of faith traditions (Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Atheist, and Hindu). But what’s most interesting about all these near death experiences is they seem to correlate directly with one’s own faith tradition.
For example, Muslims describe being greeted by 70 Virgins, Hindus describe themselves as meeting Vishnu, Mormons get to meet Joseph Smith, Catholics get to meet the Virgin Mother, and when Colton Burpo returns from heaven, he describes Heaven as constantly placing an emphasis on the need to Ask Jesus into a Person’s Heart. Faith Language that never appears in the Bible yet is very prominent within his own family’s religious tradition.
Another thing worth noting is Heaven is For Real isn’t the first book within this genre. In 2004, A Baptist Minister named Don Piper, who unlike Colton Burpo was clinically dead for a period of time as a result of an auto accident, wrote a book entitled 90 Minutes In Heaven where he describes his own personal encounter in Heaven.
Yet when Don Piper describes his visit to Heaven it contradicts Colton Burpo in that he describes everyone in Heaven not being young, but rather looking the same way as when they died. When you have two contradictory visions of heaven between two people who I have no doubt are sincere in their faith it seems something else is probably at work here. Mainly the power of the Human Mind and the influence of American Folklore are at work in providing these understandings of Heaven.
The problem with these I’ve been to Heaven and back stories is they portray an incomplete understanding of the afterlife. Heaven isn’t really what most of us think that it is, and I’ll get back to that in a bit.
Now let’s look at the second H in Hell. The greatest misconception about Hell is when people think of Satan as the ruler of Hell. This idea isn’t Biblical rather it comes from the rich imagery of 17th Century author John Milton in his book Paradise Lost. For the book of 2nd Peter describes Fallen Angels being cast into Hell and then being thrown into chains. The Book of Revelation describes Satan’s Final Destination as being cast into the Lake of Fire after Christ’s Second Coming.
Now let’s move to the Third H. The less known H of Hades. Hades is a Greek translation of the Old Testament Word “Sheol”. Sheol was known as the Grave, The Pit, or the Abode of the Dead throughout the Old Testament. Sheol was the place of darkness where all the dead go whether Faithful or Unfaithful. Sheol or Hades was known as being the personification of death along with the grave evil that death represents. Death and Hades are considered the same throughout the Book of Revelation.
Today’s Gospel Lesson comes to us today from Luke the 16th Chapter. In today’s parable, Jesus is seeking to confront the beliefs of the religious leaders of his day, mainly their love of money. To describe the error of the religious leader’s ways, Jesus speaks of two characters. The first character is a Rich Man, the type of man who the religious leaders would have idealized on account of the great blessings that God had given him.
The second man was Lazarus a poor beggar that would have been seen as a result of his poverty someone who didn’t possess God’s favor. This parable describes both the Rich Man and Lazarus being taken away after death. The Rich Man and Lazarus are both brought to Hades. Within Hades or the Abode of the Dead or Sheol, the Rich Man is unable to escape suffering and torment. Where as Lazarus is brought into a separate location within Hades called Abraham’s Bosom where he is described as being comforted within death.
What makes Jesus description of Hades so odd is the Rich Man is described as being able to communicate with Lazarus within Hades. The Rich Man requests to Abraham that Lazarus communicate with his brothers so that they don’t end up like he has.
The last few weeks we have been studying the Parables of Jesus. The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin, the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, we’ve touched on the Parable of the Prodigal Son that surrounds this lesson. Jesus’ parables always use earthly metaphors within earthly contexts to convey spiritual meanings. Jesus parables use real places (vineyards) and real titles (Father, Son, Older Brother) to convey these spiritual messages.
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus isn’t a Parable because: A. It would be the only Parable that uses a real person’s name in Lazarus. B. Jesus is not conveying a new belief or symbolic belief about the afterlife only reinforcing a belief from the Old Testament that upon death that everyone went to Sheol or Hades.
Our lesson for today brings up something interesting about Christians and the Afterlife. The scriptures portray two realities of what happens to the believer after their death. These realities are often ignored by the majority of 21st century Christians who just tend to think of the soul being immortal. We must distinguish for today the afterlife as two separate realities. Both of which are often called “Heaven”.
The first state of the afterlife is “The immediate state of existence upon death” which is the place where our loved ones may currently reside, the place that is referred to as bliss, or paradise within the New Testament. The first reality of the afterlife is what too many people refer to as “heaven”. If Colton Burpo did die in Heaven is For Real it would have been what he experienced.
When Jesus encounters a Thief on the Cross as he prepared for his own crucifixion the famous words were spoken “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise”- Luke 23:43”. Jesus was promising a similar existence to the Thief on the Cross as was given unto Lazarus in today’s lesson, a place of blessing to await the final resurrection. Yet where Lazarus resides in Abraham’s Bosom does not paint a complete picture of the afterlife.
The 2nd and final reality of the afterlife, the New Heaven and the New Earth has a higher degree of scriptural emphasis placed upon it then any sort of intermediate state between death and resurrection. The New Earth has not yet been built, when people describe going to heaven in books and seeing streets paved with Gold and pearly gates. They are describing a place that according to the scriptures is not in existence.
One place where Jesus speaks of the preparation of heaven being made between the time of one’s death and the second coming occurs in John the 14th Chapter. Famous for being read at many funerals, the passage states “In My Father’s House are many rooms”. Consider the words from this passage that are often ignored verse 2 which states “And if I go to prepare a place for you, I WILL COME BACK for you to be with me that you also may be where I Am.”
When the Apostle Paul seeks to comfort the mourning Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians the 4th Chapter, he doesn’t describe the recently deceased as currently with Christ. Paul rather describes them as the ones who will be raised first at the second coming. Yet the Apostle Paul proclaims to the Church in Galatia that it is better to depart and be with Christ, for to die is to gain. What happens between Death and Resurrection is a question that can’t be answered.
Yet I do believe that like Lazarus in today’s text that believers are in some known state of comfort. As we look at our text for today, I should say a few words about Purgatory and our Catholic friend’s belief in it. Purgatory is known as being the place of purification. The place of getting one ready to enter into a State of Grace by purifying one of the sins committed in this life. The time frames vary on purgatory on account of the nature of one’s sins. Prayers and Masses are held to lessen one’s time in Purgatory.
The issue that Lutherans have with purgatory isn’t that it’s not possible for their to be an intermediate state of existence between Death and Resurrection such as Hades, Abraham’s Bosom, Paradise, or Bliss. The real issue with Purgatory is how it relates to the Biblical witness. The Thief that Jesus told on the Cross would be with him on the next day in Paradise lived the type of life that if purgatory was a reality would deem that he spend time there. The problem with Purgatory is that it places additional debt unto God’s people, apart from the death of God’s own sin. The real issue with Purgatory is that minimizes the complete and total forgiveness won for us on the Cross at the expense of one’s ritual purification.
This brings us to the last of the Four H’s for today, the H of Hallmark. Hallmark is adopting beliefs about the afterlife because they sound nice. Hallmark is the place of Happy Endings where good people find true love, and bad people get what they deserve. Hallmark thoughts are attractive because Hallmark always gives the nicest sayings with the nicest stories. I wonder if we often don’t sell the afterlife short as strange as it might seem. We do this when we think of only the soul living on for eternity apart from the body. I think our initial thoughts about the afterlife or heaven is that such a place seems nice, to think in terms of someone playing Racquetball on a big court in the sky, an idealized version of this world with Silver Bay Falls, and Las Vegas Winters. Yet the problem with the soul living on apart from the body is that it leads one to believe that the afterlife is a lesser existence in any way, shape, or form.
When in reality the afterlife is beyond what we can imagine. The afterlife is beyond what can be expressed in a movie or on a greeting card, since we have never lived in an existence without sin, without pain, without death. We have never lived in an existence where at the very center of our being is the one gave us life, and eventually redeemed it on a cross. The afterlife is Jesus Christ is coming back, not so we can levitate outside our bodies, Christ is coming back to save the whole world, all of God’s creation. So, that it may finally be declared to be “good again” Amen
 Patton, Michael. “Book Review: Heaven is For Real”. Parchment and Pen Blog. Credo House Ministries. 6.Feb.2011. Web. Sept.23.2013
 Patton. “Book Review: Heaven is For Real”
 Patton. “Book Review: “Heaven is For Real”
 Patton. “Book Review: “Heaven is For Real”
 2 Peter 2:4
 Revelation 20:10
 Revelation 1:18, Revelation 6:8, Revelation 20:13-14
 Luke 16:22-23
 Luke 16:27
 Luke 16:27-28
 Revelation 21:1
 John 14:2
 John 14:3
 Philippians 1:21
 Luke 23:43
 Genesis 1:31
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When I was nineteen, I worked for a summer as a Bible Camp Counselor. This job represented a transition in life for me. For the first time, I wasn’t being the one disciplined; rather I had to be the one doing the disciplining kids not much younger than myself. So, I sought out to think of ways to make the punishments creative and memorable. The perfect solution existed outside the cabin; there was a wood pile for campfires. This wood pile led me to a solution. One time a kid named Jared who was around 15 refused to go along with directions. So, I figured this wood pile would serve as a perfect opportunity to teach a lesson. I took Jared outside and told him that I didn’t like where the wood pile was currently. I instructed Jared to move this whole pile of wood, five feet to the right. Jared moved this wood in about 10-15 minutes. As soon as Jared thought he was done, I told Jared that I didn’t like the way the wood pile looked where he had moved it. I then asked Jared if he could move this pile of wood, five feet to the left. As soon as I made this request, a huge smile came upon Jared’s face. He understood that I didn’t care one iota about where this wood sat. I was instead seeking to convey to Jared the message that you don’t know, how the world works like you think you do. This is the most valuable of lessons for us as Christians.
Last week, I went to visit a friend of mine named Josh. Josh works as a Middle School Teacher. Josh is involved in a very interesting marriage. Josh is married to a girl named Katie. Katie grew up Wisconsin Synod. Katie’s Dad is a Wisconsin Synod Minister. Katie’s Brother is a Wisconsin Synod Minister. Katie’s Sister is married to a Wisconsin Synod Minister. When Josh asked Katie’s Dad for her hand in Marriage, Katie’s Dad said he needed to think about it. He only relented with several conditions placed upon his blessing, most of all an insistence that any kids be baptized as Infants. Josh didn’t see this as much of a problem because he didn’t see the Baptism as nothing more than the act of getting the baby wet. Josh tends to be skeptical of traditional religion. Josh is a strong Christian, yet he views traditional forms of religion as being dead religion. Josh sees too many people going through the motions on Sunday morning and in their everyday lives. Josh believes that Christians need to be expecting dramatic miracles and healings around every corner. Josh believes that if someone really has faith than any sort of life outcome is possible. Josh thinks Christianity is marked by progress of the human potential to become like Christ. So, this is why the notion of Infant Baptism seems so foreign to Josh. What evidence is there that God is really working in the life of a smelly, crying, wailing infant?
Today’s Gospel comes to us from Luke 14. It’s a passage that speaks some very harsh truths about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus associates discipleship with hating one’s mother, father, brother, sister, wife, and children. Jesus speaks of discipleship involving the cost of hating life itself. Jesus defines Discipleship through the act of carrying one’s own cross. What should we make of Jesus words for us, this morning? Jesus language giving about hating one’s family is given for a dramatic effect. It’s a speech that’s given to a large crowd of followers. It’s a speech given to group that Jesus knows will see many people struggle in their faith during the times ahead. To assure people that following Jesus will not be easy. Jesus spoke his words today because too many people were misunderstanding his message. They assumed that following him was going to instantly lead to all sorts of good stuff in return. Where as when Jesus speaks the language of “carrying one’s cross”, he is seeking to remind his followers of the reality of a Christian’s life in the starkest and most honest of terms.
How can we make sense of today’s lesson? I wish to tell you a story about the meaning of discipleship. At the end of the 2011 NFL Season, the Vikings Adrian Peterson suffered a tear of his MCL and ACL ligaments in his knee. There were pundits proclaiming that Peterson will never be the same again. One’s ability to make cuts on these ligaments is essential to being a good NFL Running Back. No one thought that Peterson would be the same type of player in 2012. Only then something remarkable happened. Adrian Peterson was the best player in Football. This leads into an interesting cause and effect.
Week 4 the Vikings are playing in Detroit when a player asks Peterson “Adrian, what are you taking? What juice you using? I gotta get me some of that.” Peterson’s response to the question was “I’m juicing on the blood of Jesus. Faith is what got me to this point.” 
Now to my good friend Josh this statement might serve as evidence that God is really working in Adrian Peterson’s life. God performed a miracle in his recovery because Adrian had faith.
The way that Adrian Peterson portrays his faith is problematic; Peterson goes way beyond acknowledging God for being one of the rare people on the planet with his talent. Where Peterson is wrong is his implication that it’s because of Jesus Juice that he achieved what he achieved. Adrian Peterson is presenting a flawed understanding of how God works in people’s lives. You go over to William Kelley High School and you have nice kids and kids with devout faith. Kids that could pray to get Jesus Juice like Adrian Peterson every single night. Yet these kids will never become Adrian Peterson.
As pointed out by Religion Blogger Matt Patrick, Adrian Peterson’s success is noteworthy because it’s so rare. Number 28’s success is so rare that it doesn’t provide an accurate representation of a normal Christian’s life. A Christian’s life is not marked by MVP awards. A Christian’s life is more likely to be marked with failure, disappointment, and struggle.
The average Christian’s life is marked by wishing that things could be different by the time they get up the next morning. I have no doubt about the sincerity of Adrian Peterson’s faith. The problem with Peterson’s message is that if one places their faith on the basis of their everyday experiences. One’s faith will soon experience crushing blows for which there are no good words to say. The question that needs to be asked today is “Where do we encounter God?” Does God encounter us in victory or failure? Does God encounter us in our MVP awards or does God encounter us in Baptism? These are the big questions.
To answer this question I wish to tell another Football related story. Tony Dungy was a former QB for the Gophers and a former Defensive Coordinator for the Vikings. In 1996, Tony Dungy was hired to take over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before Dungy’s arrival, the Buccaneers weren’t very good. They hadn’t made the playoffs in 14 seasons and were considered the laughing stock of the league. In 1997, Tampa stunned the league as it won its first five games. The season though quickly began to unravel. The Buccaneers had a kicker named Michael Husted who started missing kicks. Husted was not only missing field goals, he was struggling to make extra points. Husted quickly became public enemy number 1 in Tampa. The media and fans shouted how Husted needed to go before it was too late. Any coach other than Tony Dungy would have brought in another kicker.
Tony Dungy had set out that if he ever coached a NFL Team that he was going to model his leadership on the principals of his faith. Dungy was going to seek to encourage rather than threaten. Dungy wished to go against the grain in how he sought to achieve victory and success. Dungy had waited years for his big break. He knew that teams weren’t going to hire him because of his worldview in relating to people. Tony Dungy was going to run his team in his own image, no one else’s.
Tony Dungy knew something much deeper was at work in Michael Husted’s life then just missing kicks. Michael Husted’s Mom was dying of Cancer up in Virginia. Husted thought he could be a professional, yet this burden began to overwhelm him. Husted’s burden carried over to the Football field. After the Buccaneers lost their third straight game due to Husted’s troubles, Husted thought it was all over for him.
The next morning, Dungy called and Husted was sure he was being let go. Dungy’s words were different. Dungy just told Husted “You’re a Buccaneer, you’re part of our family, and you’re our kicker.
The next week, the Buccaneers go up to Indy where Husted makes the game winning kick. Dungy went forward not by ignoring the situation with Husted’s mother. Rather Dungy saw to it that she came to games that season and sat in the box with his wife. Husted’s season turned around as a burden was lifted from him.
Dungy’s story stands out because it is such sharp contrast to how the world normally works. This is the message of the cross. This is the message of our gospel. God reaches us in failure. God reaches not at the moments when we achieve our potential, but rather God reaches us at the moments we understand the limits to our power. When we say the cross is at the center of everything we believe. We are not issuing a statement of belief but rather a statement about life.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is presenting us both with a challenge and an assurance. The challenge is what lies ahead isn’t MVP Awards. What more likely lies ahead are wounds scars, as we journey towards our own inevitable deaths. Yet Jesus offers words of assurances as he promises that your victory has already been won through his death and resurrection. The crosses you carry today are not worthless ventures like moving the wood pile. Your crosses point towards that what you experience today will one day be put to death at the moment of your resurrection.
Luther summed this up beautifully when he proclaimed “God receives none, but those who are forsaken, restores health to none, but those who are sick, gives sight to none, but the blind, and life to none, but the dead… He has mercy on none, but the wretched and gives grace to none, but those who are in disgrace.”
In just a few moments we’ll sing our Hymn of the Day “Onward Christian Soldiers”. This is a hymn that has fallen out of favor in many churches. It’s a hymn that’s seen as glorifying violence. Yet this hymn has nothing to do with earthly warfare. This hymn has rather to do with the spiritual conflict that engages us everyday. It’s a hymn that deals with the reality of sin and evil in our world. It’s a hymn that doesn’t seek to present life in sanitary terms. When people ask how we’re doing too many of us wish to say “fine” or “ok” even as we’re being eaten up inside. “Onward Christian Soldiers” is a hymn that portrays as we go forward from this place today, we do not march alone. We rather march forth led by the Cross of Christ which promises us that God can and will bring victory out of defeat. Amen
 Luke 14:26
 Luke 14:26
 Luke 14:27
 King, Peter. “10 Things I Think I Think: Every Record Means Something’ ” CNNSI. 21 Aug.2013. Web. Sept.3.2013
 King. “10 Things I Think I Think: Every Record Means Something’
 Patrick, Matt. Adrian Peterson’s Theology of Glory (and Why It’s Unhelpful) “ Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 28.Aug.2013. Web. Sept.3.2013
 Yasinskas, Pat. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”. ESPN NFC South blog. ESPN. 12. Jan.2009. Web. Sept.3.2013
 Habib, Hal “On his terms: Colts Dungy stays true to principals”. Palm Beach Post. 23. Jan.2007. Web. Retrieved September 5, 2013 from Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Dungy#cite_note-28
 Yasinskas. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”.
 Yasinskas. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”.
 Yaskinskas. “A Dungy story you may not have heard”.
 Luther, Martin. Weimar Ausgabe 1, p. 183f. Retrieved on September 4, 2013 from http://www.mbird.com/glossary/theology-of-the-cross/
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
A few years ago, a movie came out called Yes Man. Yes Man tells the story of a loan officer named Carl Allen played by Jim Carrey who in the wake of a divorce becomes embittered at the world. Carl’s attitude leads to him becoming isolated from everyone he knew. One day after Carl misses one of his best friend’s engagement parties, Carl is told that unless he changes his ways, he will remain completely alone in life. Such a warning eventually leads to Carl attending a self-help seminar whose keynote presenter challenged the audience to never say “no” to any potential request that came their way. The challenge was given to Carl to say “yes” to every opportunity that came before him.
Get together with his friends? Carl says “yes”. Help plan a Bridal Shower? Carl says “yes”. Learn Korean? “yes”. Take Flying Lessons? “yes”. Start approving any sort of loan no matter how crazy at the bank? “yes”. No matter how uncomfortable the request, no matter what Carl’s first instinct? He was going to say “yes”.
Saying “yes” so many times led Carl to end up in some very uncomfortable situations which made up a lot of the humor in the film. Eventually Carl answers “yes” to an ad for a lead singer for a band, where he ends up meeting a girl who became the love of his life.
Yes Man hits an important point on the meaning of the word “yes”. Yes is the riskiest word in the English Language with all sorts of uncomfortable possibilities and uncertain outcomes that can be issued as soon as you say it.
I was recently talking to a woman who I’ll call Katie. Katie had recently met a guy that I’ll call Matt at work. Katie thought Matt was a nice guy with a good personality so she became interested in a possible future with Matt. Yet Katie quickly became skeptical. Katie started to think back to her past relationships. Katie thought of how she had her heart broken when guys had cheated on her. Katie then began to see flaws in Matt. Matt had been divorced a couple of times already and this raised red flags for Katie. Katie then began to think of her own flaws: her own lack of trust, and a general lack of confidence that Matt could be interested in her. Katie was already saying “no” to herself. Katie’s attitude had produced the worst thing in life an inability to consider the possibility of a “yes”.
This brings us to Today’s Gospel Lesson from Luke the 15th Chapter. Today’s Gospel is ultimately parables of the meaning of “yes”. Today’s Gospel contains two short parables: The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin. These parables set up the better known parable in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
When considering the meaning of Jesus’ parables one must remember that these parables were not spoken with the intent of inducing smiles or snickers. These parables were told with the idea to shake up all previous ideas regarding how God actually works.
The novelist Flannery O Connery said it best “When you assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock- to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”
Jesus parables were all given in a context intended to shock. The parables for today were told to the Pharisees.
The Pharisees had all sorts of good, religious qualities. The Pharisees were at the Temple every Friday night. The Pharisees avoided all the bad foods that Jews of their day were supposed to avoid like Pork Chops and Cheeseburgers. The Pharisees were often the biggest and most generous of givers.
Yet the Pharisees didn’t fully recognize the nature of their existence. The thing about Jesus’ parables is they aren’t concerned with ethics. The parables of Jesus are concerned primarily with death and resurrection.
For the whole point of Jesus parable to the Pharisees is at the time of their funeral, they could have a beautiful and true eulogy given on their behalf yet this doesn’t change the fact that they’re dead. This doesn’t change the fact that on the very same day as the Pharisees funeral on the other side of town is the funeral of tax collectors and sinners. Now these Tax Collectors and Sinners will have people struggling to say something nice about them at their funeral, yet just like the Pharisees they will also be dead.
The Pharisees body might be prettier. The Pharisees’ death might be mourned to a greater degree. Yet Pharisee, Tax Collector, and Sinner alike will all be brought to the Foot of the Cross. Jesus in these parables isn’t intending to call the actions of the Pharisees bad nor is he intending to support the actions of the tax collectors and sinners as good. Rather Christ Jesus in our parables for today is illustrating much like Carl Allen in Yes Man the reckless, irresponsible nature of whom exactly God will say “yes”.
Our parables for today both involve individuals displaying very strange behavior to pursue lost items.
The first parable is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. In this parable, a Shepherd with 100 other sheep abandons 99 other sheep to the wilderness. The Parable of the Lost Sheep stands out because the Pharisees would have understood that most shepherds would have just dismissed that one lost sheep as a lost cause. The lost sheep would have been unruly and more trouble then it would be worth. The Parable of the Lost Sheep stands out because the Shepherd didn’t think a rate of loss being 1 in 100 was acceptable. The Shepherd had a personnel devotion to this lost sheep and didn’t dismiss the missing sheep as the cost of doing business.
The other parable, The Parable of the Lost Coin tells the story of a woman who stays awake all night to find one missing coin. Not only did this woman spend more time trying to find the coin then it was worth. The woman then throws a celebration for all her friends and neighbors over the coin being found, thereby certainty blowing the value of the coin.
What these parables do is the highlight the nature of grace. These parables highlight the nature of God’s Mercy. These parables highlight the nature of the Gospel. These parables paint a picture of a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness- Exodus 34:6. These parables draw a sharp contrast between our yes and God’s yes.
For example, a few years ago, I interviewed with a church out in a beautiful part of Washington State. As I prepared for the interview, I gradually picked up on background for the congregation. Their previous pastor had been a young man who was a rather successful youth worker that journeyed out there to be a pastor. This congregation set out for this new pastor’s ministry with the highest of hopes. Yet the whole thing quickly began to unravel, this young man was lonely, and this young pastor eventually had a nervous breakdown within several months then was forced to leave the ministry. This brought much pain to the congregation as their best of intentions resulted in nothing more than hurt feelings.
So, as I sit down for this interview, they didn’t proceed to ask traditional interview questions. Every other question was “whether I had a girlfriend?” “Whether I wanted to get married?” “How do I think I’d meet women in a small town in the middle of Washington?”
This congregation had been so badly burned in the past. I left that interview knowing regardless of how good or bad I did, I would never see those people again. I had the least experience, the most unstable home situation, and the most potential to fail. This congregation fully realized the implications of the word “yes”.
The reason that saying “yes” is the riskiest word in life is because “yes” involves potential consequences. When you say “yes” to a new employee, you see the cost right away, but the benefit requires imagination.
When you say “yes” to a spouse, you run the risk of having your heart broken, you run the risk of having your life turned upside down, you run the risk of being dragged kicking and screaming to some undesirable corner of the earth.
Yes is dangerous because yes introduces the possibility of failure and disappointment. Families feud for years because someone fails to meet the inherent demands of some other family member, so our everyday experiences make it real easy to say “no” to other people. 
Where as we run from the word “yes”, the Grace of God is different, where as our “yes” is given with conditions, “the yes” given to us on the Cross is given unconditionally.
William Barclay told the story of a backpacking doctor who had been traveling across Europe for several weeks. Due to the nature of backpacking; this man hadn’t shaved, cut his hair and his clothes had become dirty. People automatically assumed as soon as they saw this man that he was a bum. The young man during his backpacking contracts an illness then eventually passed out along the road. This led to two strangers bringing him to a hospital. Into this man’s hospital room walked two attending physicians. They saw this man’s outwardly disgusting appearance and figured his role in society to be nothing more than a drag upon it. One of the doctors said to other “We’d do this man a favor to let him die”. These two doctors had no idea that this young man was listening to their every word. When this dying young man summed up the Gospel by saying “Never call a man worthless for whom Christ died”. Never put a man beyond the possibility of God saying yes.
Consider the meaning of the word “yes”. Yes is the most hopeful word in the world. Hearing “yes’ is a putting to death all the reasons you tell yourself “no”, all the reasons those around you might tell you “no”, and all the reasons that you think your God might tell you “no”.
Today, we hear two parables about what the word “yes” means. Yes means you will not be abandoned in the fields to fend for yourself. Yes means you will be searched for all throughout the night of our lives. Yes is the answer to God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Amen
 Flannery O'Connor, Collected Works: Wise Blood / A Good Man is Hard to Find / The Violent Bear it Away / Everything that Rises Must Converge / Essays and Letters.
 Patrick, Matt .“The Johnny Football Saga Continues” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 4.Sept.2013. Web. Sept.12.2013
 Taken from http://www.lectionary.org/Sermons/McLarty/Luke/Luke%2015.1-17,%20LostSheep.htm
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.