The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Welcoming Sunday

Reflection based on Luke 15:1-10 The parables of the sheep and the lost coin

Opening Prayer: Gracious and extravagant God, who loves each one of us here more than we might ever ask or imagine, hear my prayer: May the words on my lips and the thoughts and the feelings we carry in our hearts and minds and bodies, may all of it be acceptable in your sight as we reflect together on your holy word for us this day.  Amen.

Many churches in Vancouver and around the country celebrate and rejoice at the restoration of community after a lengthy summer break. 

Here at Knox we, too are celebrating  what some might call Rally Sunday or Homecoming Sunday.  This year, we have decided to just call it ‘Welcoming Sunday’! 

What that means is this: Whether you’ve happened upon us by accident as a newcomer or a visitor this morning or whether you are returning once again as one of our regular attenders or members, your presence to each one of us is precious and you are indeed welcome here each and every Sunday of the calendar year, but especially this morning!

After worship, we hope you will be able to join us for a time of fellowship time and our annual BBQ over in the gym and out on patio next to the fellowship hall. 

There will be also be some fun ways of learning together as we hear a few words from each of our governance teams about the restoration of some our diverse ministries on pause over the summer.

Ranging from ministries of music and teaching to ministries of pastoral care to ministries of education and participation in social justice initiatives to ministries of administration and oversite of our church buildings, we invite you to come along and see what might capture your attention or your hands, hearts, minds, and bodies as well! 

Did I mention sign up sheets and surveys about our attendance at Summerstream 2016?

There will also be a word about our pending development of the parking lot and re-location of our fellowship hall, so please be sure to join us for some food, fun, and a review of the many precious ways we live out our faith here at Knox.

Its true that Welcoming Sunday at Knox is an annual day of extravagant and lavish hospitality on our part. 

This is in keeping with our biblical mandate that calls us to take our parts in the building up of God’s gracious economy, where all are welcome, precious, loved, and needed. 

For all of that and more, we rejoice at your presence with us this morning!

By coincidence, in our readings from Luke’s gospel this morning, Jesus also offers two familiar but quite different stories that call to mind themes of extravagant welcome, homecoming, and precious restoration of community. 

And there is much rejoicing when was has been lost is found! 

In the first story, we recognize the Shepherd who, by his very nature, is called to leave the 99% of his sheepfold vulnerable, as he risks heading out in search of one wayward sheep, that 1% wandering off into the hinterlands. 

Once found, we’re told, the Shepherd throws a lavish party and welcomes all his neighbours to celebrate the sheepfold’s restoration. 

The parable of the lost sheep is a story about risk and upheaval and about restoration and rejoicing in community.

In the second story from Luke’s gospel, we hear again about the woman with the lost coin. 

You might remember her? 

She’s the one who risks turning her household upside down to find that precious lost coin, that one without which her treasured collection of ten drachma is not quite complete. 

Once the woman finds the coin, she, like the Shepherd, throws a lavish party and welcomes all her neighbours to celebrate its restoration. 

The parable of the lost coin is also a story of risk and upheaval and about restoration and rejoicing in community.

How fitting both of the stories from Luke’s gospel for us today as we invite you to join with us in celebrating and rejoicing with friends and neighbours the restoration of our own Knox community and some of its diverse ministries.

 This, after what has felt like a lengthy summer’s break this year!

Of course, it needs saying that the context of our stories from Luke’s gospel is one fraught with more tension than our own story as a community on this particular Sunday in September in the year 2016. 

In our reading from Luke’s gospel, on the one hand, Jesus is pulled between the expectations and needs of the religious elite, the Pharisees and the scribes. 

On the other hand, Jesus sees the desperate needs of the tax collectors, sinners, and outcasts. 

He sees these ones living on the margins of the community as also in need of God’s precious love.

Jesus also sees them and the established community as needing one another to engage in ways that all might come to be seen as precious.

From Jesus’ perspective, there is room for all in God’s economy of grace, hence the sharing of the two parables from Luke’s gospel on offer this morning. 

Have things changed much since Jesus first fleshed out that call to a radical and lavish hospitality where the last and the least are as welcome as the strong and the powerful?

For me, the short answer is no. 

Jesus’ call to a radical and lavish hospitality seems every bit as risky and challenging an endeavour for us to engage in as Christians today as when Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago.

Still, we do what we can, moment by moment, step by step, day by day. 

Indeed, we have these stories from the ancient texts to continue to chew on.

We have scripture as our roadmap and prayer as our practice to guide and inform our faith journeys.

We have our faith and denominational history and our shared ministries, and we are not discouraged. 

To my way of thinking, ‘Welcoming Sunday’ is as good a place to begin as any to live into the promise of God’s economy of grace where all are welcome, all are precious, all who feel lost might be found and where there is indeed, room for all to flourish and thrive with much celebration and rejoicing at the restoration of community!  

For all of this and more, let us pray:  Holy One, you call us to build communities of care-filled living, restoration, celebration, and rejoicing where the last and the least might share their time and their talents with the strong and the powerful. 

Be with us in our risking to venture beyond the sheepfold in search of those who have strayed. 

Be with us in our risking to turn our household upside down in search of those precious elements of our faith and other precious ones hiding in the cobwebs. 

Be with us in our daring to offer a lavish and welcoming hospitality with your radical concern for our families, our friends, our neighbours, and especially those we are enculturated to not see as precious in your eyes and therefore, not precious in our own.

For all of this and more we pray for diligence, strength, and the courage needed to persevere in the building up your economy of grace as fleshed out in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our brother, Jesus.  May it be so, amen.