Proper 19 Pent 14C                                       September 11, 2022                                 St John, New Orleans

We all have one. That bin or basket where you put single socks from the dryer. 

I imagine for many of us it started when we had small children. 

Babies and toddlers are famous for letting socks slip off their feet 

and as they get older they just take them off anywhere they want. 

In the house or in the car. 

While riding in a shopping cart or running around the park. 

And so, when you see a stray sock, you pick it up, place it in the dirty laundry

 and hope upon all hope that eventually the other one will join up with it in a single sock bin. 

And you will, once again, have a glorious matching pair. 

At our house in Olathe we had three such soft bins: whites, darks, and many colored. 

And as we packed for the move to New Orleans I made a decree! 

“since the whole house is being packed, whatever socks are in the bins when the house is empty will be thrown in the trash.” 

after 15 years of seeking to find and pair up lost socks, the period of amnesty was over. 

No more Mr. Nice Guy. 

It's time to move on with whatever we have and acknowledge that some were gone forever.

But socks weren't the only thing we collected at our house. 

Being a fairly handy person, I like to be given the opportunity to fix something that breaks rather than throw it away. 

but I can get busy, or put the broken item away for later attention. 

And the saying is true, “out of sight is out of mind.” 

and before you know it, you end up with a house full of broken and useless stuff.

Perhaps you know my pain to some degree? 

Perhaps it's a frugal streak that runs through you that won't let you throw out something that still, sort of, works, or has the potential to be useful, if only it were fixed? 

Or, maybe it's more of a romantic idea about how, someday, when you aren't as busy, you'd like to take on that project or repair? 

Regardless, I believe we all have those broken things in our life or things that are missing something, that we hope to work on someday.

 Maybe it's a piece of furniture in the garage you've always wanted to refurbish. 

Or that long lost cousin that you keep thinking about, but never call. 

Or even that desire to get back into reading the Bible, or helping more at church.

 But, to date, nothing much has happened on that front. 

And so we just sort of push all those things to the side, almost giving them up entirely, yet not making the effort to fix them or get rid of them. Paragraph

Our gospel today begins with Jesus hanging out with, “the tax collectors and sinners.” 

in our terms, crooked politicians and the morally ambiguous. 

Although, in our times there seems to be a clear lack of agreement in what is moral or immoral. 

but we do generally condemn anything that harms others, or forces them to do something against their will. 

And, as Jesus is talking to these people, the Pharisees and scribes grumble that he honors them by eating with them and inviting them to join him in company. 

Because being a good host is one of the most important values in Middle Eastern culture, 

who you associated with around the meal helps determine your stature in the community. 

At the same time, to refuse to welcome someone into your home was a great insult. 

And since Jesus ate and socialized with both groups some might associate them together through their connection to Jesus. 

But to the scribes and the Pharisees the sinners and the tax collectors were nothing like them, and certainly not worth socializing with, even if it would be rude to not do so.

To the Pharisees and the scribes, the people Jesus was socializing with that day were the equivalent of the single sock bin or the junk drawer or that shoe box of extra bolts, nails, screws, and other hardware that sits on a shelf in the garage. 

Perhaps not irredeemable trash to throw away, 

but certainly the type of people you just don't need to be concerned about or socialize with. 

They were us assumed to be so far outside of God's Kingdom, that they were essentially, the” lost children of Israel.” 

When God spoke of the “faithful remnant” in the Old Testament,

 it was the scribes and Pharisees that exemplified this 

much more closely than the tax collectors and sinners.

But Jesus challenges their assumptions. 

Not only was Jesus polite to them 

but he treated them the same as the disciples he called to follow him in ministry. 

While their actions may have been far from God's expectation for them as his people, he still wanted them to be his people. 

Although their greed and sins may have driven a wedge between them and God, his love was still moving him to send Jesus to bring them back. 

While the Pharisees judged people by their past, Jesus was only interested in their future. 

The Pharisees said, “your actions have made you unwelcome, unclean, and unable to enter the Kingdom of God.”

 while Jesus comes to them and says, “leave the past behind you, repent of your sins and I will receive you with open arms.”

As we read this text we don't just read it as history. 

Yes, it tells us about Jesus ministry and how he was able to reach so many in such a short period of three years.

yes, it gives us insight into the interpersonal dynamics between Jesus and others. 

He champions the poor, needy, and the broken. 

And he chastises the comfortable, the proud, and the self-righteous. 

And, so, as we read this text, we can also ask ourselves, “which camp would I be in?” 

would I be more comfortable with the tax collectors and sinners,

or would I have been more than likely among the Pharisees and the scribes? 

We've been trained since childhood to believe we do not want to be like the Pharisees, 

yet our lives tend to mimic theirs more than those of the sinners and the tax collectors.

Now, before you all go out and say, “pastor wants us to go out and cheat like tax collectors and engage in all sorts of simple behaviors,” let me explain. 

The Sinner and tax collectors that were with Jesus were with Jesus for a reason. They were looking for a new start. 

Matthew and Zacchaeus were perfect examples.

 When hearing Jesus, they repented, stopped their shameful behaviors as tax collectors, 

and live life differently as a testimony to their new life in Christ. 

For the woman at the well who had a reputation of failed marriages and adultery,

 she boldly admitted her faults to the community 

and invited them all to follow her to the well so Jesus could give them the same living water of forgiveness that she received from him. 

Jesus didn't hang with these people to legitimize their behaviors, but to redeem their humanity and identity as children of God. 

Because they were unable to rehabilitate their reputations as tax collectors and sinners, 

Jesus gave them new identities as his followers and his disciples. 

And that's the good news of this text; That Jesus changes us from what we have been into what he wants us to be.

Yes Jesus takes me, “just as I am” as the hymn says, 

but he also leads us toward new life in him. 

Taught and infused into us by word and sacrament, 

and experienced day in and day out by the guidance of his Holy Spirit.

Therefore, we should pray each day that we see that each of us or that lost sheep, not the 99. 

Because each of us has sinned greatly we are in the same boat as Jesus friends that day. 

In need of forgiveness and redemption. 

And if we think we are the 99, then we are like the Pharisees; 

fat and happy to continue on the sweet grass of the pasture, 

oblivious to the lost one which has gone astray. 

We are not the shepherd seeking lost souls. 

That is Jesus job along with his Holy Spirit. 

We are all the one Jesus sought to save by his death and resurrection. 

And since we are all in the same condition there is no one who can be excluded.

While we may not always agree with one another, there are two things which unite us: sin and salvation. 

By our sin we are all mutually destined for destruction. 

Moving day is coming when the last socks and broken furniture are left behind forever. 

Judgment day is coming when those who don't know Jesus forgiveness will be left behind forever. 

So that is why we continue to strive to keep the faith and build it up. 

Not only so that we can be assured of our own salvation, 

But so that we can give glory to God by how we live until that day arrives. 

That is also why we invite other sinners to come and hear the good news of Jesus forgiveness. 

Just as the disciples went ahead of Jesus to tell people that he was coming to preach to their village., 

so too does he send us out to invite others to come and hear what changed our lives when we received his love forgiveness.

So that they too might be saved, just as we were saved.

In a couple of weeks I'm going to begin a new experiment that I'm hoping will help you do that with your friends who don't yet know Jesus. 

It will start Sunday evening October 2nd at 5:30 in the gym. 

Anyone interested in following or learning about Jesus is welcome to attend, with no church experience necessary. 

Like Jesus did, we'll share a meal together, and get to know one another as friends. 

And as friends we will listen to what scripture says about Jesus and how all of us can briefly and succinctly share that message with others. 

Lastly, will pray with and for each other as well as sing songs of praise to God.

Even if you don't know someone who is unchurched or an unbeliever, or are too nervous to invite them,

 I hope that some of you will check it out 

and, at least, get to know some of your fellow church members better as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

As we go through our first eight weeks of study together 

some of you will be moved to lead your own discipleship group, 

while others will be more comfortable letting others lead 

while they bring new friends to experience the growth 

that will come from our time with Jesus in his word. 

And if Sunday evenings don't work for you, 

give me ideas for other days and recruit a few people to join, 

and we'll duplicate these efforts in a new place and at a different time.

We all know someone who isn't currently in the flock don't we? 

Let's spend time in the next couple of weeks making a list of them, praying for them, and reaching out to them. 

So that they know that they are not God’s rejects or the Church’s castaways. 

But, that instead, they are loved children of God whom he wants to forgive and give new life.

So that on the last day we might all be counted among the flock that rests safely in the Savior’s sheep pen. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.