What made Jesus a different kind of teacher, master, and guide in Israel?  The very first words of the gospel today spells the distinction people saw in Jesus. Luke 15 begins: “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him.”  Reflecting on the Gospel for this week, my thoughts were drawn to this first sentence. 
Some teachers and preachers, even today, draw the rich crowd.  Some attract the young crowd.  Some specifically target the professionals.  Some spiritual gurus are magnets to the educated.  But Jesus, here was somebody who was attractive to the unattractive.  This fact caused great scandal among the people who expected a sanitized version of God’s messiah, of a savior who comes to gather only the pure and worthy children of God.
And the message Jesus came to deliver to his audience struck a cord in every heart.  There was this lost sheep.  There was this lost coin and this rebellious son.  It was not something about those who behave well.  It was about the rebel, the renegade, the black sheep of the flock.  Jesus was direct in his speech.  He did not pander his crowd with flattery.  He told them how lost they really were.
The crowd remained listening.  They stood there huddled around the Lord absorbing every word.  They were waiting for the center of the message.  And Jesus did not disappoint.  Because you are lost, God is looking for you.  I have been sent to find you. Now I want to bring you home.  When you are back home to my Father, then heaven can rejoice again. You are lost, but now you are found.  You are dead in sin but now you are risen from the darkness of the tomb.
No wonder these are the most beautiful parables in all of Scripture.  This is what the Gospel really means.  This is the life and mission of Jesus in summary.  And if we look closely, it is also the summary of our relationship with God.  We are the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son. And Jesus came to this world for our sake.
Each Sunday we come to worship God in the Eucharist. How do you feel when you enter the celebration?  Why do you think you are here?  If you think you are here because you deserve to be here, because you are clean, above the others, pure and worthy of God’s favor and love, maybe there is a mistake there. 
For the only reason we are here is because we are like the people who drew close to Jesus the day he told these parables.  We are here because we are sinners.  Now, that may be difficult for some people to accept without some humility.  But if you are perfect this is not the place for you.  Jesus is here in the Eucharist in search of the lost.
Let us thank the Lord for reminding us how much of a sinner, a rebel, a lost one we are.  Let us thank the Lord that in spite of all these, he is relentless in his desire to bring us home.  Let us rejoice with the Father, with Jesus and the angels in heaven that finally we are found.