Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, September11, 2022
Introduction & Welcome
Thank you for accepting God’s invitation to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is
good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!
The grumbling of the religious leaders in today’s gospel is actually our holy hope: This Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. That our God seeks and saves the lost is not only a holy hope, it is our only hope. As the writer of 1 Timothy reminds us, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Thanks be to God.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
who is eager to forgive
and who loves us beyond our days.
Dear friends, together let us acknowledge
our failure to love this world as Jesus does.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God of mercy and forgiveness,
we confess that sin still has a hold on us.
We have harmed your good creation.
We have failed to do justice,
and walk humbly with you.
Turn us in a new direction.
Show us the path that leads to life.
Be our refuge and strength on the journey,
through Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend.
Beloved of God:
your sins are forgiven ☩ and you are made whole.
God points the way to new life in Christ,
who meets us on the road.
Journey now in God’s abiding love
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of the Day
O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion, you lead back to yourself all those who go astray. Preserve your people in your loving care, that we may reject whatever is contrary to you and may follow all things that sustain our life in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-14
While Moses is on Mount Sinai, the people grow restless and make a golden calf to worship. Today’s reading shows Moses as the mediator between an angry God and a sinful people. Moses reminds God that the Israelites are God’s own people, and boldly asks for mercy for them.
7The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
11But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Psalm: Psalm 51:1-10
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Ps. 51:1)
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my offenses,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment.
5Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.
6Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me,
and would have me know wisdom deep within.
7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my wickedness.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
The letters to Timothy and Titus are called the pastoral epistles because they contain advice especially intended for leaders in the church. Here the mercy shown to Paul, who once persecuted the church, is cited as evidence that even the most unworthy may become witnesses to the grace of God.
12I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Alleluia. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Alleluia. (Luke 15:10)
Gospel: Luke 15:1-10
Jesus tells two stories that suggest a curious connection between the lost being found and sinners repenting. God takes the initiative to find sinners, each of whom is so precious to God that their recovery brings joy in heaven.
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Meditation by Vicar Dave
When I worked at the prison, there were two distinct groups. There were the inmates and then there were the staff. The line between them was one that was not to be crossed. By most people on the staff side of that line, they thought that the inmates were all evil and irredeemable people. Then we would have these religious groups like Kairos come in, to minister to these people. Lots of the staff would look at these people and wonder, why do they even bother? Don’t they know that these inmates are not going to change their ways and they’re wasting their time? Then they would look at the inmates on the other side and think they’re just there for the special privileges. Every time the Kairos people came in, they brought food with them. The ironic thing was that before they left, the Kairos folks shared some of this food with the staff as well. Kairos was supported by people at the church. One of the things that the people who did not come into the prison did was make cookies that they were to pass out to both the inmates and the staff. They had boxes and boxes filled with these gallon sized bags with homemade cookies in them. Most of the staff looked forward to receiving at least one bag of these cookies. (Maybe that’s the reason there aren’t very many thin corrections officers.) The inmates, on the other hand, look at the officers and the staff with a lot of distrust. These are the people that are here, after all, to enforce the rules. If I step out of line just a little bit, they might send me to “the hole”. So, while they are there trying to celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ, a number of them may be looking askance at the officer assigned to the area, wondering what his or her motivations are.
I thought about this when reading today’s gospel. After all, the people that Jesus is eating with are very much like the inmates in the eyes of the Pharisees. They are on a wrong path and the Pharisees don’t see any way that they can get on to the right path. Not only that, but the Pharisees think of themselves as better than the sinners that Jesus eats with. And what about the tax collectors and other sinners that Jesus is eating with? Might they be looking at the Pharisees with a lot of distrust in their hearts as well? “Are the Pharisees just here so that they can condemn us?” They might even be thinking that the Pharisees are here to ruin their celebration with Jesus. Perhaps they’re wondering if the Pharisees will try to take Jesus away from them.
When Jesus tells the parables of the Lost Sheep and the lost coin, which one of these groups do you think he was talking to? The gospel only says that he told “them” this parable. Heard from the point of view of the Pharisees, these parables could sound like Jesus is trying to give them an attitude adjustment. Which I think is a fair assumption. After all, these Pharisees think of themselves as perfect and righteous. They look down their noses at these people they consider to be the drakes of society. People they have deemed not worthy of giving a second thought to. Then there are the sinners to consider. And I use that word, sinner, rather cautiously, because, after all, everyone’s a sinner. These people have chosen a path which society has deemed is not acceptable. They’ve been told for quite some time now that they’re not able to be redeemed. They’ve gotten used to people looking down their noses at them. Then all of a sudden Jesus is telling them that they have great worth. And that if they turn their lives around, there will be great rejoicing in heaven at this. Jesus is telling them that they do have worth. I’d argue that Jesus is talking to both of these people. And yes, he is trying to give the Pharisees an attitude adjustment, and he’s also trying to tell the sinners that they do have great worth to God.
So which group do you think we belong to? Are we like the Pharisees looking down our noses at people that we deem to be less worthy than ourselves? Are we like the sinners who doubt their own worth and rejoice at the good news of Jesus? It seems to me that we are both at the same time. After all, there have been times when each of us has probably looked at somebody on the street and thought, thank goodness I’m not like that guy. I know I have to fight the urge to judge people every day. Whether it’s at work and dealing with some of the people on my caseload or I’m just driving down Alexis Road to the grocery store past all of the strip clubs. There are also times when other people have made us feel less than worthy. There are some folks that we look up to who look down upon us. Perhaps it’s a celebrity that we look up to, or just some wealthy person that we think is much more successful than we are.
The good news, of course, is that Jesus came for all of us. He saved all of us. And because of that, God rejoices in each of us every day. We should also rejoice in the fact that God loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his only son to save and redeem us.
Prayers of Intercession
As scattered grains of wheat are gathered together into one bread, so let us gather our prayers for the church, those in need, and all of God’s good creation.
Your people receive mercy and your grace overflows in our lives. Fill Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Brenda, our pastor, and all of your church with faith and love, and give understanding hearts to those who work to strengthen our ecumenical and interreligious commitments. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Your creation groans as it suffers the impacts of pollution and lack of care. As the seasons change, renew in us the will to protect plants, animals, and habitats. Give us courage to take the necessary action to protect this world that you have entrusted to our care. Bless us with bountiful harvests that all may share. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Your world is shattered and the nations rage. Remember us in your mercy. Teach wisdom to our elected leaders so that we know peace in our world, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Your children wander homeless and the hungry cry for bread. Seek out those who are lost or lonely, anxious or depressed, or struggling with addiction or illness. Provide for those in any need, especially those whom we remember on our prayer list and those we bring before you now. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Your work is done in this congregation with our hands, feet, voices, minds, and hearts. Build up the ministries of this community, that we serve our neighbors and welcome the stranger in your name. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Your blessed saints who have died now rest in your presence. Give us thankful hearts for those who have been examples of faith in our lives and receive us with joy when we come to share eternal life with you. God of grace,
hear our prayer.
Gathered together in the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, gracious God, we offer these and all our prayers to you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy
Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and
was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended
into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the
living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be
done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into
temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the
glory, for ever and ever.
God, who gives life to all things
and frees us from despair,
bless you with truth and peace.
And may the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
guide you always in faith, hope, and love.
Go in peace, with Christ beside you.
Bless the world and be God’s grace
Thanks be to God.