“View the Present Through the Promise” Advent Candle Lighting Liturgy Series

This is a series of five Advent (and Christmas Eve) Candle-Lighting Litanies  I wrote for use with the hymn “View the Present Through the Promise” (lyrics by Thomas H. Troeger; set to FRANKLIN PARK by Roy Hopp), which can be found in Lift Up Your Hearts (#470) and Sing! A New Creation (#90). We sang the hymn as a response to each litany. Each week’s litany is based on the Bible readings from the Revised Common Lectionary Year B so it is especially appropriate for that liturgical year.

“View the Present Through the Promise”

Advent Candle Lighting Litany for use with
“View the Present Through the Promise” (Lift Up Your Hearts #470)
Lyrics by Thomas Troeger
For RCL Year B

First Week of Advent (Be Alert)

Leader: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

People: What does God promise us?

Leader: God is faithful. He will keep you firm to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

People: What can we do to prepare for Christ’s coming?

Leader: Keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour. Be on guard! Be alert!

People: We will trust despite the deepening darkness. Christ will come again!

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Leader: The candle we light today reminds us to be alert. Hold fast to God’s promise. For although the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give light, God will keep us firm through the end.

People: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

Hymn of Response: “View the Present Through the Promise”

Second Week of Advent (Be Holy)

Leader: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

People: What does God promise us?

Leader: God is faithful. The glory of the LORD—a new heaven and a new earth—will be revealed and all people will see it together.

People: What can we do to prepare for Christ’s coming?

Leader: Live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God

People: We will trust despite the deepening darkness. Christ will come again!

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Leader: The candle we light today reminds us to be holy. God is not slow in keeping his promise. He is patient, for he wants everyone to come to repentance. Although the day of God will bring destruction, we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth.

People: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

Hymn of Response: “View the Present Through the Promise”

Third Week of Advent (Be Joyful)

View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

People: What does God promise us?

Leader: The God who calls you is faithful. He will reward his people and make an everlasting covenant with them. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.

People: What can we do to prepare for Christ’s coming?

Leader: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.

People: We will trust despite the deepening darkness. Christ will come again!

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Leader: The candle we light today reminds us to be joyful. Hold fast to God’s promise. He will bestow on us a crown of beauty, the oil of joy and a garment of praise.

People: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

Hymn of Response: “View the Present Through the Promise”

Fourth Week of Advent (Be Not Afraid)

Leader: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

People: What does God promise us?

Leader: God is faithful. The kingdom of Jesus, the Son of David, will be established forever.

People: What can we do to prepare for Christ’s coming?

Leader: Do not be afraid. For no word from God will ever fail.

People: We will trust despite the deepening darkness. Christ will come again!

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Leader: The candle we light today reminds us to be not afraid. God’s faithfulness is established forever. Just as fulfilled his promises with the birth of Jesus Christ, so he will keep his promise that Christ will come again.

People: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

Hymn of Response: “View the Present Through the Promise”

Christmas Eve (Worship the Lord)

Leader: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

People: What does God promise us?

Leader: God is faithful. And so we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

People: What can we do to prepare for Christ’s coming?

Leader: Worship the Lord. Say among the nations: The Lord reigns. Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

People: We will trust despite the deepening darkness. Christ will come again!

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Leader: The candle we light today reminds us to worship the Lord, who was once a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. He will appear again in even greater glory.

People: View the present through the promise. Christ will come again!

Hymn of Response: “View the Present Through the Promise”

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”View the Present Through the Promise” Advent Candle Lighting Liturgy Series by David Schweingruber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves

I meant to do some substantial reading this year about the Reformation to mark the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 theses to the All Saints’ Church door in Wittenberg. Instead, I ended up reading this excellent concise (just under 200 pages) book by Michael Reeves.

Chapter 1 provides some background on the medieval Catholic church, highlighting issues that would become important in the Reformation and introducing some forerunners, like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus.

Chapter 2 is on the life and career of Martin Luther. Chapter 3 covers Ulrich Zwingli and the Radical Reformation, which Reeves says includes the Anabaptists, Spiritualists and Rationalists. I could have used more about the Anabaptists; Menno Simons gets less than a page. Chapter 4 covers John Calvin and beginnings of Calvinism.

Chapters 5 and 6 covers the Reformation in Britain and and the Puritans, respectively. The amount of detail about the Tudors and Stuarts seemed a bit much for such a short book, and the “slow death” of Puritanism made for a depressing end to this section.

In chapter 7, “Is the Reformation Over?”, Reeves take issue with the claim (by Mark Noll among others) that Protestantism and Catholicism are now in agreement about the issues of the Reformation. Reeves says that Catholic teaching hasn’t changed since the Council of Trent and the 1999 Catholic/Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification skirts the central issue of justification.

Obviously, a book of this length gives only a brief overview of each topic it takes up, but if you’re looking for a good introduction to the Reformation, this is one.

 

The Parables of the Barren Fig Tree and The Ten Bridesmaids

The Parables of the Barren Fig Tree and The Ten Bridesmaids (or Ten Virgins) are two eschatological parables that our class treated together.

The Barren Fig Tree (from Luke 13) is brief: The owner of the fig tree hasn’t found any fruit on it for three years so demands that it be cut down. The caretaker replies: “Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”

The Ten Bridesmaids (from Matthew 25) are waiting for the bridegroom. The five wise bridesmaids brought extra oil for their lamps. The five foolish bridesmaids did not bring oil, left to buy more, and were gone when the bridegroom arrived. “‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’” Jesus concluded: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

The parables address two different failures of discipleship. The Barren Fig Tree is about the failure to bear fruit. As Klyne Snodgrass says, “We do not know when we will be called to account for our lives. We need to recover some sense that our actions really are significant and remember that the gospel includes judgment, mercy, and a call for repentance and productive living” (Stories with Intent, p. 265).

The Ten Bridesmaids is about the failure to be prepared. As Craig Blomburg puts it, “Like the foolish bridesmaids, those who do not prepare adequately may discover a point beyond which there is no return—when the end comes it will be too late to undo the damage of neglect.” (Interpreting the Parables, p. 241)

Although Jesus used both parables to give warning to his contemporaries of imminent judgement, there are clear applications for his Second Coming.

Naomi’s drawing is one of my favorites. Rather than a wedding, the ten women have been waiting for a bus to “Future Boulevard.” The five wise women are climbing onto the bus. The five unwise women are scattered about the neighborhood: two window shopping, one buying coffee, and two at the door of a move theater. (The wedding theme of the four movies playing reminds us of the original setting.) The barren fig tree stands, ignored, on the street corner.

More Barren Fig Tree Art

I didn’t find much Barren Fig Tree art: Two by usual suspects Jan Luyken (The Parable of the Fig Tree) and James Jacques Joseph Tissot (The Barren Fig Tree) and another by Steve Hammond (The Barren Fig Tree).

More Ten Bridesmaids Art

Art illustrating the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids is more common, most of it highlighting the differences between the two sets of women.

The only artist who gives every bridesmaid her own story is the Mormon painter Gayla Prince. According to her web site, “prints of her painting ‘The Ten Virgins’ have sold over one million copies. She has been invited to give over 500 presentations of that paintings symbolism to groups around the United States. She then developed a slide and script presentation that has been given by thousands of presenters to millions of people worldwide.” A version of her presentation is here; a larger version of the painting is here.
Music

For this class we sang “Where Is the Kingdom” (And Jesus Said #1), which includes a reference to the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (“It’s like those young women with oil in their lamps”); “Heav’n Is Like Ten Bridesmaids Waiting” (AJS #54); and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” (Singing the New Testament  #47). And Jesus Said also includes another Bridesmaid song “Waiting for the Bridegroom” (AJS #53) and two Barren Fig Tree songs, “Jesus and the Fig Tree” (AJS #23) and “A Fruitless Fig Tree” (AJS #24).

This is the seventh post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the LeavenThe Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great PriceThe Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, The Parable of the Lost Sons, and The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds is one of my personal favorites as it seems to capture the confusing nature of the the present age: good and evil mixed together, often indistinguishably.

A farmer sows good seed, but his enemy comes at night and sows weeds. (The weed is thought to be darnel, which looks like wheat but if ground with it will spoil the flour. The King James translates the word as “tares.”) The farmer tells his servants not to pull up the weeds because in doing so “‘you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

The parable is one of the seven kingdom parables in Matthew 13, one of only two with a title given in the Biblical text (Jesus’ disciples call it “the parable of the weeds in the field”) and one of only three that Jesus explains.

According to Jesus, two types of seed are the people of the kingdom (sown by the Son of Man) and the people of the evil one (sown by the devil). At the end of the age, the angels will “weed out of [God’s] kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

In his discussion of the parable in Stories with Intent, Klyne Snodgrass says that “God is not the only one at work, and not all actions in this world can be attributed to God.… Evil happens that can only be identified as the work of an enemy” (p. 215). This is such an important corrective to the “everything happens for a reason” theology circulating in the church today.

Naomi’s drawing (as always, drawn during the class with occasional input from other members) shows the enemy (dressed in black) at the left sowing the bad seed. At the right, another figure is harvesting the wheat with a sickle while stacks of weeds burn behind him. Four insets show how the two different plants look identical when they are young but very different when fully grown. At the center, the weed wraps itself around the wheat.

More Art

Almost all of the Wheat and Weeds artwork I found focuses on the enemy sowing weeds. Exceptions include a 1992 triptych by Dinah Roe Kendall (Wheat and Weeds), and Scott Freeman’s The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat, which appears to depict Jesus sowing wheat.

A few pieces focus on the harvest/judgment, including William Blake’s The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, James B. Janknegt’s Grain and Weeds (2002), Scott Freeman’s The Parable of the Weeds, and Bassano-Schule’s The Parable of the Tares (17th Century).

The weed-sowing artwork includes:

Music

In addition to “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1) we sang two other songs from And Jesus Said: “Wheat and Weeds” (AJS #12 & 13) and “Mixed Like Weeds in Wheatfields” (AJS #14).  Neither recounts the story in the parable. The former (with lyrics by Richard Leach and set to two different tunes) is four lines long:

Wheat and weeds: growing time; wheat alone: harvest come.
Truth and lies, hope and rage, love and fear: wheat and weeds.
Lies pulled up, rage consumed, fear cast out: harvest time.
Truth along, hope fulfilled, love enthroned: kingdom come.

Mixed Like Weeds in Wheatfields” (with lyrics by Carl Daw) sets Jesus ministry into the context of “worldly power, undaunted” that opposes it. “Though such evils flourish and grounds for hope decrease, deep and well our planted God’s seeds of love and peace.”

This is the sixth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the LeavenThe Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great PriceThe Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, and The Parable of the Lost Sons.

What’s Next? Confession Series

This is a series of five confessions I wrote for an eschatological sermon series entitled “What’s Next?” Pastor Kelly’s five sermon topics (with Scripture readings) were:  A New Heaven and a New Earth (Genesis 1-2:15), The Intermediate State (1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), The Great Multitude (Revelation 7:9-17), An Eternity of Worship (Revelation 5:11-14), and Angels (Genesis 1:26-27).

Each confession has a short Scripture reading (God’s Promises), a unison prayer of confession, an assurance of pardon, and a suggested hymn of response.

A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH (GENESIS 1-2:15)

God’s Promises: Revelation 21:1-6
Unison Prayer of Confession

We repent, Lord, of all the ways we doubt your promises. Open our hearts to the reality more true than anything we can now perceive: There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth. God will dwell among his people and wipe every tear from our eyes. Help us to live our lives in anticipation of this sure conclusion. Let all our words and actions sow the seeds of God’s Kingdom, foreshadowing the perfect peace and justice that will prevail.

Assurance of Pardon (Revelation 21:7)

He who is seated on the throne promises us: “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Song of Response: “Jerusalem the Golden” (Lift Up Your Hearts #488)

THE INTERMEDIATE STATE (1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11)

God’s Promises: Philippians 1:20-26
Unison Prayer of Confession

We repent, Lord, of all the ways we doubt your promises. Open our hearts to the reality more true than anything we can now perceive: When we die, we will be with Christ. And when Christ returns, we will be bodily resurrected and will live with him forever on the earth made new. Help us to live our lives in anticipation of this sure conclusion. Let our words and actions sow the seeds of God’s Kingdom, honoring God with our bodies and caring for his creation, foreshadowing restored bodies and a renewed creation more glorious than we can imagine.

Assurance of Pardon (John 14:2-3)

Jesus promises us: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Song of Response:  “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” (Lift Up Your Hearts #690)

THE GREAT MULTITUDE (REVELATION 7:9-17)

God’s Promises: Daniel 7:13-14

Unison Prayer of Confession

We repent, Lord, of all the ways we doubt your promises. Open our hearts to the reality more true than anything we can now perceive: We are members of a family of people from every nation, race, ethnic group, and language, spanning all of time and space. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and one day we will join them around God’s throne. Help us to live our lives in anticipation of this sure conclusion. Let our words and actions sow the seeds of God’s Kingdom, relinquishing lesser loyalties to nation, party, and race, seeking oneness with all who follow Jesus, caring for all people, and working for peace in all situations, foreshadowing the peace and unity of all who worship the Lamb through all eternity.

Assurance of Pardon (Isaiah 43:5-7)

God promises us: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Song of Response:  “Amid the Thronging Worshipers” (Lift Up Your Hearts #511)

AN ETERNITY OF WORSHIP (REVELATION 5:11-14)

God’s Promises: Isaiah 45:22-24
Unison Prayer of Confession

We repent, Lord, of all the ways we doubt your promises. Open our hearts to the reality more true than anything we can now perceive: Our worship here today is just a foretaste of the eternal worship of God by all creation. Help us to live our lives in anticipation of this sure conclusion. Let our words and actions sow the seeds of God’s Kingdom, offering up our lives as a sacrifice of worship, joining with believers across the world for Lord’s Day worship, and adding our voices to the heavenly chorus praising God throughout all eternity.

Assurance of Pardon (Philippians 2:10-11)

God promises us: “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Song of Response: “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” (Lift Up Your Hearts #538)

ANGELS (GENESIS 1:26-27)

God’s Promises: Matthew 18:10
Unison Prayer of Confession

We repent, Lord, of all the ways we doubt your promises. Open our hearts to the reality more true than anything we can now perceive: God has appointed angels as our fellow workers and worshipers. Though we cannot see them, angels are encamped around us. One day we will see them and worship with them throughout eternity. Help us to live our lives in anticipation of this sure conclusion. Let our words and actions sow the seeds of God’s Kingdom, trusting in God’s protection and joining in worship with the heavenly choir.

Assurance of Pardon (Psalm 34:7)

God promises us: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is God; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Song of Response: “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” (Lift Up Your Hearts #540)

 

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What’s Next? Confession Series by David Schweingruber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Confession Based on Luke 12:32-40

This is a confession I wrote based on Luke 12:32-40, which was the Gospel reading for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C.

We have a section of our service called “We Are Renewed in God’s Grace,” which typically consists of a confession, an assurance of pardon, and a hymn of response. One variation is to open with a Scripture reading as “God’s Will for Our Lives.” Here I used Luke 12:32-40 as “God’s Will for Our Lives” and followed with a unison prayer of confession I composed and an assurance of pardon from the passage.

WE ARE RENEWED IN GOD’S GRACE

God’s Will for Our Lives: Luke 12:32-40
Unison Prayer of Confession

The watch seems long and too often we are distracted, weary, or fast asleep.
Lord, awaken us from our slumber.
Make us good servants
and good stewards of the gifts you have given us to serve our neighbors.
Draw our hearts to heaven—
to your Kingdom and your will—
so that we can build our treasure with you
and be ready for the hour of your return.

Assurance of Pardon

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Song of Response

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (or another appropriate hymn)

 

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Confession Based on Luke 12:32-40 by David Schweingruber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Parable of the Lost Sons

The story typically known as the Prodigal Son deserves its reputation as one of the greatest of Jesus’ parables. The parable follows the younger of a man’s two sons as he rejects his father, comes to ruin, and then returns to his father’s warm welcome. It then shifts focus to the older son, who is angry with the welcome given his brother and refuses to join the celebration. The father gets the last word, pleading with the older son to join the party because his brother “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

One of our regular class exercises is discussing possible names for the parables (the only named parables are in Matthew 13). This parable’s traditional name focuses on the younger son’s wastefulness (prodigal means wastefully extravagant) rather than his being lost (like the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin that precede it). I like the “The Lost Sons” since the parable is about two sons who are lost in different ways—just like the lost sinners Jesus welcomed and the Pharisees who complained about this.  The parable could also be named after the father—“The Loving Father” or even “The Prodigal Father” (since he is wastefully extravagant in his love).

Kyle Snodgrass, who calls the parable “The Compassionate Father and His Two Lost Sons,” says: “The parable is a narrative demonstration of the grace with which God reaches out to embrace sinful people. Jesus did not need to introduce the idea that God accepts sinners, but his message of the kingdom emphasized that he was restoring Israel, that end-time forgiveness was being offered now, and that this was the critical time for repentance. The God that Jesus represents and proclaims is precisely the forgiving and merciful God reflected in the parable” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 140).

lost-sons

Naomi’s drawing is a triptych showing  the younger son squandering his wealth in wild living (note the slot machine), the younger son coming to his senses, and his father welcoming him home while the older brother looks on in disgust.

More art

I found far more art related to the Prodigal Son than any other parable and organized it by which aspect of the parable it depicts. Artists who painted multiple scenes from the parable include James Jacques Joseph Tissot, whose The Prodigal Son in Modern Life consists of Departure, In Foreign Climes, The Return, and The Fatted Calf, and Steve Prince, whose series (eyekons) consists of The Prodigal Appetite: HallooThe Prodigal Journey: Exit Wounds, and The Prodigal Return: Your Past may be Stained,but your Future’s Untouched.

Sacred Art Meditations has a collection of Prodigal Son art. Images of Prodigal Son art from the Larry & Mary Gerbens Collection can be found online at eyekons and the Calvin College Center Art Gallery. I’ve linked to the images at eyekons because I can’t figure out how to link directly to art on the Calvin College page; however, bigger images can be found in Calvin’s slideshow.

Departure
In a Distant Land
Keeping Swine
Coming to His Senses
Approaching Home
The Loving Father
The Fatted Calf
The Other Brother
Multiple Scenes
Music

Our class sang the same three songs for our Lost Sheep/Lost Coin class and our Lost Son class. Two—“Shepherd, Do You Tramp the Hills” (SNT #39) and “It Was God Who Ran to Greet Him” (AJS #37)—refer to all three parables with four stanzas, one for each parable and the fourth to sum things up.

The other is “Far From Home We Run, Rebellious” (AJS #39/SNT #40/LUYH #122)—one of the few parables songs in Lift Up Your Hearts—which is about the Lost Son. The son puts the singers in the position the younger son. Here is the first stanza:

Far from home we run, rebellious,
seeking cities bright with dreams.
casting loose from love that claims us,
craving life that glitters, gleams.

The song covers the parable in five stanzas; the sixth replaces the celebratory feast with communion: “Bread and wine for celebration on the table now are spread…”

There are three other songs in our hymnals based on the three “lost” parables:  “A Shepherd with a Hundred Sheep” (AJS #35), “And Jesus Said” (AJS #36), and “Shepherd, Shepherd” (AJS #38). The other Lost Son song is “How Far Away Is Heaven” (AJS #40).

This is the fifth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the LeavenThe Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, and The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are part of a trilogy of parables in Luke 15 about God seeking the lost. Jesus told them in response to the criticism that he “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v. 2). In the parables the recovery of the lost sheep and the lost coin are occasions for celebration. Indeed, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).

According to Klyne Snodgrass, “What is revealed about the character of God is the value he places on even the least deserving and the care he extends to such people. God is not passive, waiting for people to approach him after they get their lives in order. He is a seeking God who takes initiative to bring people back, regardless of how ‘lost’ they are” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 109).

Therefore, “If God is a seeking, caring God, then his grace should characterize our self-perception and our treatment of other people. The awareness that God seeks us brings freedom and confidence to life. That his grace is to determine how we treat others should cause us to be caring and sensitive” (Snodgrass, p. 110).

lost-sheep-coin

Naomi’s drawing uses a maze to illustrate the search. The shepherd and the woman (with lantern) stand at the beginning of the maze, which leads to the sheep in one corner and the coin in another.

naomi-lost1

As usual, Naomi made the drawing during our class. However, she did stick around afterward to make the maze more difficult. Since Naomi takes the class’s feedback into account, sometimes she erases part of her drawing, as these two photos show.

naomi-lost2

More art

Additional depictions of the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin include art by the usual suspects: Dutch illustrator Jan Luyken (Parable of the Lost Sheep & Parable of the Lost Drachma), James Tissot (The Good Shepherd [c. 1890]) & The Lost Drachma [c. 1890]), and John Everett Millais (The Lost Sheep [1864] & The Lost Piece of Silver (1864]).

James B. Janknegt contributes The Good Chicken Farmer (2003) and The Lost Money (2003). 

Additional art on the Parable of the Lost Sheep:

(There is also plenty of additional art on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd [see here for instance], which often gets combined with this parable. I’ve only included a few of these.)

Additional art on the Parable of the Lost Coin:

Music

We chose the same three songs to sing during our Lost Sheep/Lost Coin class and our Lost Son class. One was “Far From Home We Run, Rebellious” (AJS #39/SNT #40/LUYH #122)—one of the few parables songs in Lift Up Your Hearts—which is about the Lost Son. The other two refer to all three parables with four stanzas, one for each parable and the fourth to sum things up.

“Shepherd, Do You Tramp the Hills” (SNT #39) is written as a call and response between the questioner and the shepherd, woman and father. Here is the second stanza:

“Woman, do you scour the house, just to find one coin that’s lost?
Since you have the other nine, is it really worth the cost?”
“But that coin you count so small has for me a special worth.
When it’s found, the sight will fill all my house and heart with mirth!’

“It Was God Who Ran to Greet Him” (AJS #37) spells out the parables’ messages: “It was God who ran to greet him…”/“It was God who swept the kitchen…”/“It was God, who as a shepherd…” Finally, “It is God who runs to meet us, conscious of our every need; then, as we in turn help others, God rejoices in each deed.”

There are three other songs in our hymnals based on the Lost Sheep & Lost Coin (and Lost Son) parables: “A Shepherd with a Hundred Sheep” (AJS #35), “And Jesus Said” (AJS #36), and “Shepherd, Shepherd” (AJS #38). Both parables are mentioned in “Christ Came to Save Us from Ourselves” (AJS #32) and “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1), our regular opening hymn. The Lost Coin also gets a stanza in “Go Worship at Emmanuel’s Feet” (AJS #2).

This is the fourth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven, and The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price are another pair of short parables found in Matthew 13. In both stories, the protagonists find something so valuable that they give up everything they have to obtain it.

The parables illustrate the great value of the Kingdom of God, which surpasses all our other possessions. They also suggest the high cost of discipleship and the need to give up anything that would keep us from obtaining it. “That the merchant sold all may be hyperbole, a standard feature of parables, but if so, the hyperbole underscores that the kingdom cannot be fitted into some previously existing system. All other systems have to be given up in order to experience the kingdom.” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 252).

According to Klyne Snodgrass, ‎”We also need to realize what time it is. If the kingdom is present, radical response is needed now. If the kingdom is worth all we have, then joy and celebration should accompany our finding and involvement with the kingdom. The problem with most of us is that we would like a little of the kingdom as an add-on to the rest of our lives… [The Parable of the Treasure] urges us to abandon what we thought was the focus of life and focus entirely on what God is doing with the kingdom” (p. 247).


Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price

Naomi’s interpretation of the two parables (as always, drawn during our Sunday school class with input from class members) is straightforward: a man searches for treasure in a field and the hands of a merchant hold a pearl. In the background, a house for sale reminds us that the pearl merchant and the man who found the treasure sold all they had.

Everything for Sale

 More art

These two parables seem to have inspired less art than many others. My favorite Hidden Treasure art found online are a three-part series by James B. Janknegt: Treasurefield #1: Find the Treasure (2003), Treasurefield #2: Sell Everything (2003), and Treasurefield #3: Buy the Field (2003). Janknegt also created The Pearl of Great Price (2003).

Dutch illustrator Jan Luyken (1649-1712) also made engravings of both parables (Parable of the Hidden Treasure and Parable of the Pearl of Great Price). This stained glass window at Scots’ Church in Melbourne also includes both parables.

I found a few other examples of Hidden Treasure art online:

 Music

And Jesus Said includes two Hidden Treasure songs, one Pearl of Great Price song, and one song about both parables. Our favorite of these was “What Did You Find” (AJS #26). Here is the first stanza:

What did you find while plowing this morning?
What did you find as you worked in the field?
What did I find? I found a great treasure,
and now I am going to buy the field.

The other song we sang in class was from Singing the New Testament: “The Kingdom of Our God Is Like” (SNT #34), which is set to DOVE OF PEACE and covers five Matthew 13 parables in five stanzas. Here is the Pearl of Great Price stanza:

The kingdom of our God is like
a merchant who to own
the rarest pearl sells everything
to gain that pearl alone,
to gain that pearl alone.

This is the third post in a series about our Parables of Jesus Sunday school class. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the Sower and The Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven

The Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven are two short parables from Matthew 13 about the humble beginnings of the Kingdom of God.

The mustard seed was known in the ancient world for its proverbial small size. The seed Jesus had in mind may have been the black mustard plant, which can grow to 10 feet. The leaven the woman worked into the dough would have made enough bread for 100-150 people.

The parables have been understood as referring to the church, individuals, or Jesus’ life. The commentaries I rely on claim their original focus was on Jesus’ ministry. According to Klyne Snodgrass, the Parable of the Mustard Seed “pictures the presence of the kingdom in Jesus’ own ministry, even if others do not recognize it, and Jesus’ expectation of the certain full revelation of the kingdom to come” (Stories with Intent, p. 222).

The application I take from the parables is that the smallest things we do for the Kingdom can bear unexpected fruit. Snodgrass again: “We should expect and implement ‘mustard seed’ thinking, neither disparaging insignificance nor doubting what God can do and does do with small beginnings.… If people are given over to God’s purposes, small beginnings still come to fruition. God seems to be about the business of leavening—magnifying—what seems insignificant” (Stories with Intent, pp. 227, 235).

Art

Naomi was out of town during this lesson so I have none of her original artwork to share. I did find some other art on these parables, but they seem less popular subjects than many other parables.

Parable of the Mustard Seed art:

Parable of the Leaven art:

David McCoy’s The Kingdom Is pictures six different parables from Matthew 13.

Music

And Jesus Said (Selah) includes six songs related to the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven. We chose two of them: “O My Garden” (AJS #21) and “The Kingdom of God Grows Silently” (AJS #19).

“O My Garden,” set to CHARLESTOWN, takes the perspective of the gardener marveling at the growth of the mustard seed.

“O my garden” says the gardener,
“how the mustard seed has grown!
so much more than I imagined,
now it crowds all I have sown.”

“The Kingdom of God Grows Silently” (lyrics by Joy Patterson, music by Amanda Husberg) is my favorite parable hymn and one of two—along with “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1)—we sang most weeks in class. The first two stanzas liken the Kingdom to a mustard seed and to rising yeast. The third pictures the people of God watching eagerly for the Kingdom to appear. Here is the first stanza and chorus:

The Kingdom of God grows silently, silently
like a small mustard seed grows in the earth,
sprouting and pushing its way toward day’s clarity
soon a plant tall as a tree comes to birth.

The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God
has come, and now is, and is coming to be
the Kingdom of God fulfills on the earth
God’s visions of justice and peace.

This is the second post in a series about our Parables of Jesus Sunday school class. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. The previous post was on the Parable of the Sower.