When The Lost is Found
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Proper 19, C
A woman searches frantically through the house. Turning it inside out she is almost reduced to tears. “What are you looking for?” her husband asks. “My grandmother's pendant” she sobs, not stopping in her search. “Oh, I’m sure it will turn up.” the husband offers. “You don’t understand!” his wife cries out, “I’m lost without it!”
Just by chance you speak to someone in a store one day. You don’t know why but you do. Almost from the beginning you discover that they are someone you have a lot in common with. You share the same hobbies and interests. Before you know it you have found a close friend doing everything together, and can’t remember a time when they weren't in your life. You are happier than you have been in a long time.
Throughout the neighbourhood signs go up over night. “Have you seen our dog Tramp?” They plead. Under a fuzzy photocopied picture is the following text. “He is a friendly 2 year old Labrador cross, who is greatly missed by his family. Please call this number if you can help in any way!”
Cleaning up the house in order to get ready for a move you come across an old box in the back of a little-used closet. Inside is a long forgotten photo album. The cleaning and packing are set aside as you joyfully sit down and recall the precious joys of years gone by. You wonder how this has been stored away, and what has happened to all the old friends. When you finally do get back to work you have a spring in your step that wasn’t there before.
Have you ever noticed that life is a series of Lost and Found’s? Sometimes it seems to work out in your favour. Sometimes not. We humans are continually losing and finding things. It is a fundamental part of everyone’s life. That is why these two parables of Jesus seem to affect so many people the way they do. Who hasn't been plagued with that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize something valuable and important is missing?
In the second parable we are shown a woman who has lost a coin. 8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
She has nine others, but won't rest until she finds the tenth. She lights a lamp, she sweeps the floors and doesn't stop until it is found. This is a beautiful picture of the way the church is supposed to work. No matter how many members we have, we should not rest until the lost are found. We live in a world of darkness. A world that doesn’t know the true value of its people or the fullness of the love of God. Into this darkness we are to shine the light of God’s Word. We are to bring God’s Word of Judgment and Mercy to all the comers of this world. God has called us to tell the world the great truth found in Jesus. We are to use these truths to sweep away all the lies and garbage that the world piles on top of people. Once all the stuff of this world has been cleared away from them, then their true worth in Christ can shine forth.
That's the way it is supposed to work anyway. That’s what God wants this little congregation to do. He wants this congregation to receive sinners and eat with them like he did. But when was the last time that COH was called down for the company we keep? Stop and think about it for a minute and you will see just how far removed we are from the women’s shelter, the seven pot shops and the half-dozen homeless camps around town. At times it might even seem like two different worlds. Is that what Jesus called us to do? Is that what He did? It isn’t such an easy thing to consider though is it? Lets be honest. Walking along some of the trails at the wrong time of day, you can see a lot of people who have been dulled by the world. They are covered with the filth of this world. Stuff like substance abuse, violence, vagrancy, crime, you name it. It is the kind of mess that most of us are reluctant to try to clean up.
Perhaps we keep our distance out of fear. Maybe it is revulsion. Maybe it is simply because we know that deep down inside we are not all that different. Whatever the reason, the outcome is still the same. We are ever n danger of becoming like the Pharisees, setting ourselves safely apart. We grow tempted to speak out against certain elements of society, or publicly shake our heads and murmur. What we are not doing, however, is what Jesus has called us to do. That alone makes us no better than them, in God's eyes.
But that is also exactly why the first parable is so important for us. If the second parable is a parable for us. Then the first parable is a parable about us. 4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
God is our shepherd and we are his sheep. He has called us to follow him, by seeking the lost. But like the wilful, stubborn sheep in the parable we decide instead to try things our own way. We wander off on a different path. It is a path which leads to death. Jesus, however, is a shepherd that cares so much for his flock that he can tell when a single sheep has strayed. In our Epistle lesson, Paul wrote in verse 15-16: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.” The parable of the lost sheep refers not only to those tax collectors and sinners around Jesus, but it also referred to the Pharisees themselves. If they could only see the good news.
The parable of the lost sheep is a parable about us. And that is great news! Jesus is our ever loving shepherd. He comes after us when we wander astray. He pulls us out of the sinful habits that hold us captive, and puts us on his shoulders. He bears our burden for us as he brings us back to the fold. That is what Christ did for us on the cross. He took the burden of our sin and guilt, even the sin of not following him the way we should, upon himself and bore it on the cross even though it killed him. He bore that guilt so that we could join him in the fold of heaven.
The words which the Pharisees tried to use to discredit Jesus turn out to be the most wonderful of truths. Jesus welcomes sinners. Jesus loves us enough to seek us out in our dirt and filth covered world. He cared enough to wipe away the sin that covered us, even though it meant getting it on himself. Because of the cross, our true worth has been made known to the world. God loved us enough to send his Son to live and die for us. All of heaven rejoices when someone is brought to faith and repentance, yes! But all of heaven rejoices just as much over us when each of us turns from our sin, and places our trust in Jesus.
Once we were lost in our sin. God spared no effort in finding us again. Jesus came and sought us out. He found us and He forgave us. He brought us back to the fold. Having been found, He now calls us to in turn seek out others who are still lost. This is something we can hope to do only because we first were found ourselves. Because we know Christ, we know the real value of all people; no matter what the world has dumped on them. Because we know of the great joy in being saved, we too can rejoice whenever God brings another precious soul into our midst. Every sheep is worth saving. Every coin is worth finding. By the grace, and with the help of God, we, too, can receive sinners just as God first received us.