Jesus Loves the Little People

January 12th, 2013

A Lectionary Sermon Series for Fall 2013

Series C, in the months of October and November, focuses the hearer’s attention upon the ministry of Christ recorded in Luke 17 through 19. The common thread running through these readings, which precede the festival of Christ the King, is a series of words and encounters by Jesus which revolve around small, least, and little people. This series proclaims God’s rich love, which does not measure a person’s worth by the standards of the world, but by the Cross through which he declared every human being to be precious in his sight. The preacher of this series will challenge the hearer to see the both self and the rest of the world through God’s eyes, and through His value system, and to act upon that valuation.

1. October 6—Luke 17:1-10  (Extends RCL reading by 4 vss)

Jesus declares that the “little ones” are terribly important to God. Better for the one who harms such a little one that a millstone should be hung around his neck and he be cast into the sea where no one will know his grave and no one will mourn him. To this the disciples say, “Increase our faith!” and Jesus speaks of faith the size of a tiny mustard seed being the instrument of God’s great power. This first sermon will introduce the idea of the little other and the little self, which runs throughout this series.

2. October 13—Luke 17:11-19

Jesus heals the ten lepers, to be thanked by a lowly Samaritan. One way in which one can be small in our eyes is to be “other,” and there are so many ways we can label someone as “other.” This sermon will speak of God’s great work of cleansing, healing, and saving all humanity, no matter who they are.

3. October 20—Luke 18:1-8

The parable of the persistent widow – too often preached simply as a strange encouragement to pray (pester God until he responds!), this parable is found in these chapters on little people to remind the hearer of just how important he or she is to God. If the widow gets justice through persistent badgering of the unjust judge, how much more will we see justice from our righteous judge because God loves his little people, including me and you?

4. October 27—Luke 18:9-17  (Extends RCL lectionary 3 vss)

Context is so important. Luke gives us the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector immediately before Jesus receives the little children for a blessing. The tax collector, lowest of the low in first-century Palestine, collaborator with the Romans, is helpless before his sinful condition and he knows it. Like a child who cannot feed or clothe or help himself, the sinner can do nothing about this brutal reality. But the favor of God belongs to such as these, the helpless and the otherwise hopeless people who are reduced to impotent despair by their sin. Too often God’s church looks like the disciples in this picture, setting up the barriers between the sinner and Christ. Jesus envisions a wholly other sort of world and church, in which the folks who are most welcome are the ones whose needs are the greatest and often the ones whose sins make us most uncomfortable.

5. November 3—Luke 19:1-10

Jesus dines with Zacchaeus for he too is a son of Abraham and Jesus himself has come to seek and save the lost. In the ancient Middle East, table fellowship was a very big deal. Jesus is not just being nice here, he is proclaiming something to the crowds of his day and us as well. If you seek him out, he may well be found in the very places where we do not expect him, dining with the folks we are helping. We are often tempted to imagine that we are inviting the hungry and homeless, the needy, the weak, and the little people of the world into the presence of Christ through our ministry. To our shock, however, we may find that he is already there, waiting for us to join the feast that he has provided and to add our gift to the bounty.

6. November 10—Luke 20:27-38

The great reducer of us all is death, it makes us all little and least people. Abraham had been decaying in a grave some 2000 years by the time Jesus spoke these words to the Sadducees. Abraham was as many centuries from Christ as we are temporally. But to Jesus, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, although to our eyes they have dissolved away into nothingness, less than least, they are still alive. He speaks of them in the present tense. So too the great love of God for little and least gives us hope and comfort, and empowers us for the living of these lives. We will never be “past tense” to him, nor will any of the people whom we meet. As Paul says, they are a new creation in Christ, filled with a new life from him, which does not die.

7. November 17—Luke 21:1-19  (Extends RCL by 4 vss)

Jesus watches the widow put in her mite and launches into a discussion of the end of the world. The widow who puts her mite into the offering box is commended for trusting God, it is her last money. She is wholly dependent upon Him. As Jesus speaks of the end times, many of us may be afraid of what is to come. But Jesus has a great promise for the little people who are under his watchful gaze. He has numbered the very hairs of their head, and not one of them shall fall to the earth except he knows it.

8. November 24 (Christ the King Sunday)—Luke 23:33-43

Our series ends not where we might expect it to end, with glorious victory and heavenly triumph for the little people, but with our Master and King making himself small for us. In faith we will look upon the king who wears the crown of thorns and see that his humiliation and weakness are the very strength of us all. He suffered death because he loved the little people, all of them, who could not stand before our enemies of sin, death, and devil. But even there, when he hangs dying, he sees and loves the little one, made small by his own evil deeds, hanging beside him. And so Jesus dies on this tree with little people on his mind and heart.

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