John Lennon’s claim that “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus!” was like throwing oil on America’s fiery Bible Belt, where it whipped a storm. Lennon made numerous ‘tongue in cheek’ (?) remarks: that he was the incarnation of Jesus Christ; one of Jesus Christ’s biggest fans; and that Jesus was cool, unlike those who came after him. In 1970 he sang in ‘God’ that ‘he didn’t believe in Jesus, the Bible, Buddha, the Gita, nor the Beatles’.
Many today entertain the possibility, even likelihood, that Jesus was a genuine good guy, even God’s own Son, but the hypocrisy of churches and Christians has turned them of religious faith in Jesus. I get that, and am passionate to prove John 3:16, that God dearly and deeply loves The World, people and planet, enough to die to save us now and forever.
Master storyteller Jesus had two groups before him one day: religious know-it-alls and the crescendo crowd of frowned upon fringe people (denigrated, disenfranchised, disillusioned, downtrodden): poor people, abused people, bullies and bullied people, prostitutes, tax-collectors, people with mental health and addiction issues, demonised people, etc.
With pin-point accuracy, Jesus tells 3 stories with one lost target: 100 sheep, one lost; 10 coins (from a mother’s head dress, each coin symbolising her children), one lost; 2 sons, one lost, but which one? BANG! We’re drawn in by his marvellous ‘lost & found’ stories as Jesus gets under the radar of the religious lawmakers and gatekeepers to expose a grudging spirit. The elder brother proves you can be ‘lost at home’. There are some diseases you can only catch in hospital and others caught only in church, ungrateful ‘self-righteousness’ which looks down the nose at fringe people entering God’s Family and outrageously extravagant generosity. It becomes clear that the ‘elder brother’, who now owns 2/3 of the father’s estate, grudges the Father’s Forgiveness and Grace extended to his rebellious wee brother and demonstrates that his life is one of dry duty rather than overflowing gratitude.
As elder brother, it was his responsibility, like the shepherd and mother of the other stories, to take initiative, seek and hopefully retrieve the lost son. This is furthest from his mind, in a self-centred ‘Cycle of Grief’, in which one has to achieve and work your way into The Father’s Good Books and acceptance, rather than realise that you are accepted as he you are, and enter the ‘Cycle of Grace’ to live a life of generous gratitude.
When you realise how much Father God loves you and the extent to which your Elder Brother Jesus will go to save and set you free to live a life based on God’s unconditional acceptance, it leads to significance, sustaining strength and achievement (fruitfulness that blesses and includes others in God’s lavish love) ‘in Christ’.
In our 28th June streamed service we released 100 sheep into the wilds of Irvine and encouraged children (and young at heart) to find them, to take one home as a reminder of God’s Love for us and desire to seek and find people lost to God’s Love. Let’s not be like the grudging older brother, rather like Jesus, ready to reach beyond comfort zones to help others be found and embraced by the amazing grace and love of God. In our 5thJuly 10.30a.m streamed service there’s a short testimony of Irvine’s Stephen Hill (recovering heroin addict), who has experienced this life-changing love and is now helping others towards such reclamation. Lost or Found?