September 15: Jeremiah 4:11-22, 22-28; Luke 15:1-10
July 29, 2019 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
You do not have to be an accountant or in the sales industry to see the importance of inventory. Doing inventory of supplies, or of current income and expenses, is essential responsibilities for stewarding the resources of any organization. As we grow older, we also conduct an inventory of our life – of relationships, of our legacy, and of the good remaining years for ministry. Part of doing inventory is to see what’s there and what’s not there, what’s working and what’s not working, and then to respond accordingly. We pastors scan the gathered congregation to see which individuals are sitting or missing from their usual pew position. Pastors, together with finance committee members and Session, see how the annual pledge envelopes are going so that program plans for the next year can be done.
The lections from Jeremiah 4 and Luke 15 are about an inventory being done, but from different perspectives. Jeremiah 4 alternates between the Lord’s survey and the prophet’s inventory of the current state of affairs of Jerusalem. Luke 15 invites us, through the use of Jesus telling a parable, to consider the kingdom of God scanning our hearts to take stock in the joy of being found. In Jeremiah 4, we see that the Lord is quite saddened and upset – the Lord desires for Israel’s faithfulness, but Jerusalem is being besieged, which the prophet sees desolation as a form of the Lord disciplining unfaithfulness and injustice. The prophet sees desolation, made palpable by the images of the earth being “waste and void” and the mountains quaking, and birds of the air fleeing. The siege is imminent, and there’s a feeling of foreboding. The outcome is clear: the Lord desires Jerusalem to return to faithfulness, and in usual prophetic fashion, it is the shock-and-awe of unfolding events and the shock-and-awe of the prophetic exhortations that the Lord employs to rouse up Israel to wake up, to return, to be the faithful people of God.
Luke 15 unfolds with the so-called parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. The inventory is of pursuing that one lamb that has wandered away from the other 99, and the shepherd pursuing that one lamb. When the lamb is found and restored back with the other sheep, there’s rejoicing. Then there’s the unnamed woman who loses one coin, and after searching every nook and cranny of the house, finds the coin and rejoices.
These two lections are about pursuing that which or those whom belong, and in finding and restoring, there is great joy. It is because Israel is the apple of the Lord’s eyes and brings joy to the heart of the Lord, that the Lord is relentless is pursuing Israel. Yes, even with the harsh realities of being besieged and utter desolation, the Lord’s favor has not diminished one iota. Likewise, the kingdom of heaven as demonstrated by Jesus’s ministry is about pursuing the lost and in finding there is great joy. Taking stock in inventory is an essential aspect of stewardship: as you review and consider what’s there, who’s there, what’s missing, who’s missing – you will utilize your resources, your church’s resources, and your life in such a way that will meet the need, that will pursue those actions and decisions that manifest the goodness and grace of God.