Friday, September 9, 2016

Gospel text for Sunday 11 of September 2016

Luke 15:1-10       All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: "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? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And 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.' Just 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.

"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? When 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.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Reflection      Like it or not, in God’s economy winners are losers and losers are winners. Jesus’ message is earth-shaking; if you really want to experience the kingdom of God then find a way to ally your self with the people who are under valued, misunderstood or relegated to the fringe of society; devote yourself to those who in Biblical terms are labeled sinners and outcasts. This is what Jesus does. He is faithfully devoted to  “Welcoming sinners and eating with them.” 

At first glance most of us would not jump on the word “devotion” to describe the splashy, cross-dressing extravaganza I had the privilege of experiencing last Sunday evening with twenty Apostles and friends attending "Turnabout" the Tuscon Interfaith HIV/Aids Benefit (TIHAN) “Pink Party.” Surrounded by booming music, glitter beards and exceedingly tall women, we waved our break and shake “Magic Fairy Wands,” laughed, danced in our seats and handed two dollar bills to the ordinary people we watched put everything they had on the line to express their love, loyalty and enthusiasm for the cause… caring for people who live with HIV/Aids. 

Here is the thing. The “Pink Party” was by no measure one of those  exquisitely coiffed and choreographed affairs replete with professional entertainment, fine food and libation that many of us have dutifully attended. This was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants glitzy celebration. Blaring music enfolded local folks extravagantly cross dressing,  a gaggle of nuns with full face paint and bizarre clownish costumes hawking raffle tickets, amateurs dancing and singing out their hearts, all present  giving them selves away for loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, yes, devotion to our sisters and brothers living with HIV/Aids. 

As the evening progressed a question kept niggling in my heart. “Debra, would you be willing to stand up there, dressed in an outrageous costume, face painted and putting your whole self on the line in devotion to the cause?” I squirmed in my seat.  Swallowed hard. Looked down to hide my teary eyes, and knew myself to be the least among these great people. In that moment I finally understood Jesus’ words earlier in Luke’s gospel,   “…some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”(Luke 13.30) By the relentless faithfulness of God expressed in the devotion of God’s people, the under-valued, misunderstood and those relegated to the fringe of society are sought out and lifted up to receive the joy of heaven right here on earth. Perhaps this is why the creators of this event named it "Turnabout..."

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