Jesus was trying to get his point across. This group were a tough crowd and it wasn’t going well…
‘Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, “Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!” ‘
The group looked lost.
‘Imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: “Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!” ’
Still they didn’t get it.
‘Try this – there was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.” So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country…’
You know how this story goes. But still, this group didn’t follow.
‘Let me put this a different way’, said Jesus; ‘You lose wifi on your phone. You spend the next three hours looking for signal. You’re disconnected, and adrift.
‘I hate it when I don’t have my phone.’ interjects one of the group. ‘I would literally do anything to get back online. And when I do I ping all my friends’.
In Luke 15 Jesus makes the same point three times. It’s an important point. But I have a hunch that he’s also showing us how to do theology. Clemens Sedmak says theology is a bit like cooking with local ingredients. You have to find the things that people are happy eating and then mix them up in a way that makes a great recipe. What you cook for your youth group is not necessarily what you serve when the church elders come round. I think we need the same approach when we tell the gospel story. Frontier Youth Trust is building a movement of pioneering youth work – encouraging youth workers and churches to take mission risks to reach young people. Contact us for help in exploring this thinking in your practice.
This is not really my own work. Try reading Jo & Nigel Pimlott’s Youth Work After Christendom (Paternoster, 2008) for a practical guide to youth ministry rooted in contemporary post-church culture. And read more on developing theology in context from Clemens Sedmak’s Doing Local Theology (Orbis, 2003). Both talk about cooking with local ingredients.
Photo Credit: Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unspla