A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, “A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.”

My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone.

I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying.

I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away.

I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.

This is what the LORD says: “The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely. Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.”

Luke 15:1-10

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.” 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.”


“People who lived in heaven did not have to think about hell. But the five of is- Father, Mother, my two brothers and me) lived in a hell and thought about heaven. Not a day went by that we did not think about heaven for each day of our life wore us down. Our life was like war- we lost every day, in that war.

That’s the description Korean novelist Cho Se-hui gives to the life of a South Korean family whose existence was torn apart by the modernization of Korea in the late 1970s- a society in whose destructive forces were death to almost every known way of belonging.

In the novel, the father commits suicide, one of the sons becomes a murderer, and the daughter turns to prostitution in an attempt to steal back her family’s home. But when she returns, there is no sign that it ever existed. They lived in hell, and the heaven they thought about was a place where they belonged-  a place called home, that was no more.

It was not a place and time that I would have wanted to live- and I imagine that most Americans, myself included, had no idea what South Korea was like in those days just a few decades ago.

They were too much like the land that Jeremiah describes, a land bearing the shame of God’s judgment: I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone.

I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying.

I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away.

I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.

What can we say about judgment?

It happens- people make bad choices, we develop destructive habits, we live in an unsustainable way, and bad things happen.

But they not only happen to US, they happen to our families, to our neighbors, and to people around the world.

They happen because of our individual choices, and our collective choices. They happen because someone somewhere else responds to our bad choice with another bad choice.

So judgment happens in the way a pinball bounces around the game-board.

Judgment happens, and everybody suffers, but some suffer more than others, and not necessarily in proportion to our bad choices.

The prophets forecast judgment, imagining God’s direct action as punishment for our sin. But or sin produces its own punishment, and then some.

There is hell, and we don’t have to die to descend into it.

Ask the mother whose daughter died of an overdose.

Ask the mother whose son was shot by the police.

Ask the woman married to the soldier who came home from war, and brought the war with him.

Ask the bitter young man whose father never came home from the war.

Yes, there is hell, and it is full of lost sheep, and overflowing with sorrow and bitterness and anger.

But there is a heaven too- and it is not as far away as we sometimes think.

For the so-called sinners of Jesus’ time, it was wherever he was, and they gathered around him to be part of it. They laughed at his jokes, puzzled over his parables, and felt an incredible feeling of actually BELONGING.

And they did belong, because they were loved and respected. It was heaven then, it is heaven now- whenever it happens- and it will BE heaven, when he calls us home.

Historically, theologically, judgement and salvation are two sides of the same coin. Judgment happens, but the only effective response to judgment is it’s opposite- call it what you choose: love, mercy, grace, redemption.

Judgment is being cast out, and redemption is being invited in and made welcome.

Judgment is NOT God’s intention. It happened with sin, and it continues to happen with sin.

But redemption- salvation- grace and mercy- they are God’s plan, and they happen by the will of God.

And they happen when we follow Jesus- when we pray “Thy kingdom come”, and when we love mercy, and do justice.

Somewhere in our Bible, it says that God is not wiling that ANY should perish.

Right here, in Luke 15, Jesus tells us joust how determined God is that not any should perish.

A shepherd was determined to save that last, lost, 100th lamb.

It could have been ANY of the sheep, because they are not very smart sheep.

But it was the 100th.

The smallest, the weakest, the last place lamb that didn’t even get a participation ribbon at the fair.

But he went looking for it, because it mattered.

And guess what? That sheep did not save itself.

It was saved.

And the little old lady with one missing coin?

She looked in the obvious places- the coin jar, the junk bowl, underneath the couch cushions.

But it was gone, even though it had been there Thursday.

How does a coin get up and leave? Don’t ask me, and she didn’t ask anybody, not blame anybody. It happens.

So she just kept on looking, no matter that her grandkids were shaking their heads, and putting their ear buds back in place, and listening to music.

She kept looking, and she spent good money to light a lamp, and she kept looking

Until she found it.

And when she found it, she called the neighbors, and invited them over for a cookout, which probably cost at least 11 silver coins.

It made no sense whatsoever.

It was extravagant-

But that’s exactly what God is.

Extravagant in compassion and mercy.

Perfect in redemption.

So it doesn’t matter if you’re the sock that got lost in the dryer- God’s looking for you.

It doesn’t matter if we’re the tiniest church in Christendom, God hears our prayers.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t prayed for 16 years, God has a hotline open for you.

Because each and every one of us is that 100th sheep, and God noticed where we were headed the moment we moved afoot in that direction. And God’s looking.

So the question is- are we rejoicing?

Are we inviting others t the party?

Are we pout beating the bushes for others who are struggling?

I like to use that word struggle, rather than lost, or sinner-

Because who wants to admit they’re lost?

Not me.

But I struggle. I struggled on Thursday (and BOY, was I EVER), and I was hoping someone would come find me. The only thing that kept me going was just knowing that God has a party planned, and it is being delayed so that I can attend when I am finally rescued.

Because what can we say about redemption? Only HOORAY!

So, Clap your hands, everybody, and shout Hooray!











Repeat after me,  “CLAP, and shout HOORAY- because this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.


Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *