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.