The Reckless Love of God


1 Timothy 1:12-17; Psalm 14; Luke 15:1-10

In the spirit of today’s gospel that speaks of shepherds, a short joke for you today: I used to be a Shepherd, but I have no idea how many sheep I had. Kept falling asleep trying to count them.

Admittedly, not my best joke, but I try to inject a little humor in my sermons, something you may come to love, or possibly resent, about me! Of course, we don’t know exactly how long we have together. We know it’ll be at least six months, but it could be longer. However long it is, I really want to make the most of our time. And I’d like, if you’ll allow me, to share my experiences, gifts, and even my weaknesses with you.

Radical Grace, Reckless Love

Today’s readings really speak to me because they attempt to get to the heart of the gospel: to the radical grace, and reckless love, of God who is our Father and Mother, Brother and Sister, Creator and Sustainer. The reading from Timothy offers a glimpse of the grace St. Paul experiences when his life is forever changed by the Risen Christ. I’m sure many of you know the story: how Saul, a religious zealot, saw it as his mission to stifle the upstart Jesus movement. Here, and elsewhere in the Scriptures, the man later known as Paul, describes himself as being a man of violent self-righteousness.

But rather than being punished by God, Saul is graced with a life-changing moment where the Risen Christ appears to him and sets him on the path to healing. His transformation is so radical that his name is changed from Saul to Paul, and he becomes the primary carrier of the good news of God’s love in Jesus to the Roman world.

Paul is a living example of the radical generosity of God. The inclusive hospitality Jesus taught and embodied riled the uber religious of his day. They just couldn’t get over that Jesus would invite the religiously unclean and the social pariahs to eat with him. ‘Tax collectors and sinners’ is the term the gospel writers use for this group of unwanted and even despised people.

Two Parables: One Theme

The parables we hear this morning constitute part of Jesus’ teaching in response to the hard-heartedness of his critics. Two well-known-to-us stories are told: that of the shepherd who abandons his flock to find the one lost sheep; and the woman who turns her house upside down looking for a single lost coin. Jesus starts his teaching by saying, “Which one of you wouldn’t…?” and so forth. Of course, the answer is, none of them would do the things the shepherd and the woman did!

That’s the point. It wasn’t logical for the shepherd to put 99 of his sheep at risk in order to find the one lost. It didn’t really make sense for the woman to hit pause on her life in the pursuit of one coin and then throw a party to celebrate afterward (the party, most likely, would’ve been costlier than what a single coin was worth).

But these two individuals, two people who, by all accounts, would’ve themselves been seen as outcasts and sinners by their culture (shepherds had dubious reputations that made them ceremonially unclean, and we know the subservient role women played in those days) – these are the people Jesus uses as examples of Godly grace and love. How brilliant of him!

Who’s in, who’s out?

Jesus is challenging the unchallenged assumptions of who was in and who was out. And he raised the bar on what people expected of God’s grace and love. In those days, and in our own, it’s tempting to think we need to earn God’s acceptance. Many of us struggle with feelings of unworthiness. We tend to define ourselves by our weak moments and painful experiences. And so often we feel lost, abandoned.

The last few years have been hard on all of us. We’ve felt isolation like never before, we lost a good measure of control over our lives, and we still face an uncertain future. As a parish family, St. George’s has entered a challenging season. Losing a beloved, long-time parish priest like Nigel Bunce is not easy. There is gratitude for the many graces of life lived together, but also grief and pain over what is no longer.

Found Sheep, Found Coin

Today, I hope we can find ourselves in the stories of the Found Sheep, and the Found Coin. And notice I said, ‘found’, and not ‘lost’. For that is the good news for us: no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve gone, there is a relentless God who seeks us out and desires to pick us up in her embrace. God’s capacity to heal and forgive is always infinitely greater than our ability to rebel and inflict pain upon ourselves and others. Jesus tells us that God’s love might even seem reckless, it is certainly risk-taking and over-the-top. But the result of God’s unrelenting pursuit of us is being the FOUND of God.

There is a song I’m going to sing for us to reflect upon today. It’s called ‘Reckless Love’ and it is based on today’s gospel text. Music plays a huge role in my spiritual life, and so from time to time you’ll likely hear me share songs with you that mean a great deal to me. Today’s song is a gift to those who, like me, often struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and pain. Who might sometimes feel lost, confused, and abandoned. I pray the Spirit of life would speak to us all afresh today, knowing as St. Paul did, that Christ came to save, heal, and FIND each and every one of us.

“Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury

Verse 1

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so so kind to me


Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99
And I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it, still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Verse 2

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me


There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me