September 12, 2010
Luke 15:1-10

Ah, the Sunday after Labor Day. This is the first time since the beginning of summer break that some of you have been in worship. I was tempted to examine today’s readings, which threaten with the ongoing judgment of God (Jeremiah 4:11-12, Jeremiah 4:22-28), rebukes false worship—golden calf or golden tan (Exodus 37:7-14) and challenges us to hear the call to repentance (Psalms 51:1-10).

However, I found the New Testament readings are a good counter balance to these gloom and doom passages. Paul celebrates, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am foremost” (1 Timothy 1:12-17).

Luke 15 has been called the gospel within the gospel. Three parables; the lost sheep and the lost coin point to the most beloved of the parables, the lost sons. The first two are our focus today. In these stories taken from daily life, Jesus talks about the joy of finding that which was lost.

Jesus does not speculate as to how or why people get lost. He simply observes that in one way or another all are lost at some point. If one thinks he or she is not lost, then being found is not possible.

One sheep wanders away from the 99, perhaps grazing when it should have been gazing at the shepherd. There is no intent implied. It simply became lost.
We are like that. We miss a prayer time one morning, and it’s easier to forget to pray the next morning. We skip church one Sunday, and it is harder to go back the next week. Isolated acts become patterns, and patterns lead to habits. Suddenly it is no longer our habit to worship God. Before long it will become easier not to view others from the perspective of God’s patient love.

The coin is of relative value, though to someone in need it could have bought bread for the day. Perhaps it was one of 10 coins that was part of a marriage dowry. The coin didn’t do anything to get lost. It just slipped through the cracks. Look around. Do you notice someone not here? What happened? Sometimes we allow people to slip through the cracks.

The point of all three parables is the divine rejoicing for finding that which was lost. With reckless disregard for the 99 in the fold, the shepherd searches high and low for the one lost sheep. Forgetting the nine coins in her hand, the widow sweeps the house looking for the misplaced coin.

The late George Carlin did a comedy routine about “lost things.” He imagined that when something is missing it relocates to another dimension of lost stuff. When we find it, it suddenly returns. In his view, “heaven is where we get all the stuff we lost back. That’s why it’s heaven.”

St. Anthony is the patron of lost things, St. Jude of lost causes; but God is the compassionate and persistent pursuer of those who are lost. The religious crowd of Jesus’ day was offended that He hung around with those outside the club—those branded as sinners. The church ought to be the place that welcomes those who are lost.

Jesus came to save sinners. He couldn’t do anything with those who were satisfied with themselves. It is no accident that all kinds of people know and love the hymn “Amazing Grace.” “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see” is our shared hope. Perhaps the irreverent comedian was right! In the Kingdom of God, that which was lost is restored and becomes the occasion for great rejoicing. Welcome home.

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