Sunday's Sermon

 

"Lost and Found!"

 by Wayne L. Derber, Pastor

September 15, 2019 - Pentecost 14 - C

Sermon text: “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  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.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  – Luke 15:8-10

 

Have you ever gotten lost?

This happens to all of us from time to time.

We get lost and are not quite sure which way to go.

 

Getting lost happens quite often when we are traveling

                  in an unfamiliar area.

Suddenly we find ourselves in a place

            that seems very different than what we expected.

We are not sure which way to take…

            not sure which direction we are going…

                  not sure how to proceed…

We are lost.

 

Recently I got lost in a large hospital.

I thought that I knew my way around.

But the hospital must have been recently remodeled

            and now was somewhat different.

I thought I knew my way.

But I became lost for a few minutes and didn’t know where to go.

I had to stop and ask a nurse for directions.

 

It’s hard to be lost and can be a little bit frightening.

It’s hard to admit that we are lost

            and need to ask directions from others.

 

I recently saw a survey that reported

      that women are more likely than men

                  to stop and ask for directions.

In this survey,

      40 percent of the women said that

            they would immediately stop when lost and ask for directions.

Only 28 percent of the men said that they would do so.

But even discounting this difference between men and women,

            most people

                  do not immediately stop and ask for directions.

 

Most of us think that we can find our way

                  and sometimes we can.

But sometimes, we just have to stop

            and ask for help.

There just is no other possibility.

We are simply lost and cannot find our way.

 

Of course, there are many other ways of being lost

            other than the physical ways

                  of being lost in an unfamiliar area.

 

We can also feel lost in mental, emotional, or spiritual ways.

A person struggling with a mental illness,

            may very much feel lost

                  and unsure what to make of life and this world.

A person new to a school or to a job

            may very much feel lost

                  among the crowd of unfamiliar faces.

A person moving to a new home

            may very much feel lost

                  in a very unfamiliar setting.

A person who has lost a loved one

            may very much feel lost

                  in a world without this special person.

A person going through some difficulty in life

            may very much feel lost

                  in a world that seems so different.

 

There are all kinds of things that can happen in this world

            that suddenly seem to turn our life upside down…

                  making us feel quite alone, afraid, unsure,

                        and yes, very much lost.

 

The worse way of feeling lost is spiritual.

Sometimes we feel cut off from God... spiritually lost.

 

In the 15th chapter of Luke, we hear of Jesus’ three parables of losses.

The first parable is that of a lost sheep.

The second is that of a lost coin.

And the third, which is not in our gospel reading for today,

                  is that of a lost son, usually called the prodigal son.

 

All three parables are similar.

All tell of something getting lost,

      but there are some differences in the parables as well.

These three parables seem to describe three different ways of being lost.

 

The woman lost the one silver coin in her house.

The coin was somewhere very close to her, but she didn’t know where.

The coin was close, but it was lost.

 

The one sheep just wandered off from the rest of the flock.

The one sheep was probably within a mile or so of the flock.

But it too was lost.

 

And the lost son deliberately ran far away from home.

Jesus tells us that the prodigal son was in a far country.

We can imagine him being hundreds of miles from home.

He became very lost as well.

 

These three parables seem to indicate

            that a person can be lost in any of these three ways.

A coin lost in a house is very close to the owner.

But still it is lost.

And in a similar way, a person can be an active Christian,

            and often be in the house of God,

      and yet feel cut off and lost from God.

 

A second way to be lost is the one sheep

                        who wanders off from the flock.

This one sheep is not far away and yet it too is lost.

This sheep that wanders off

      may represent the person who just gradually

            drifts away from God and the church.

Sooner or later, this person realizes that they are lost.

 

Then a third way of being lost is the prodigal son

                  who deliberately ran away from home

                        to live in a far country.

The prodigal son seems to represent people

            who deliberately and intentionally reject their heavenly Father.

They too are lost.

 

So there are these three main ways of being lost from God.

 

Like a lost coin, we can be lost in the house of God.

We can be active in our congregation

                  and still not feel connected with God.

This happens with all Christians from time to time.

 

Or like a lost sheep, we can be lost from church and our God

            simply by wandering away from the flock.

We may not deny our Christian faith,

            but having a personal relationship with Jesus

                  is not a part of our daily life.

 

Or like a loss son,

      we can deliberately run away from our heavenly Father

            and live life as we choose in the far country.

 

It really doesn’t matter how we get lost or where we get lost.

If we are lost, we are lost!

We all have that experience from time to time…

            times when we feel cut off from God…

                  times when we feel lost.

 

This may be hard for us to admit, but it is true.

Just as it is hard to admit when we get lost driving,

            so it is also hard for us to admit we get lost from God.

But we all do.

This is what God’s Word tells us through the prophet Isaiah:

      “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

      “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

      “All…”

 

All of us go astray from God sometimes.

As a result of wandering off, we soon get very lost.

 

The first thing that we can learn from these parables

      is that each of us from time to time

            wanders away from God and gets lost.

 

The second thing that we can learn from these parables

            is that we have a God who comes looking for the lost.

 

God searches for people who are lost,

      like a shepherd leaves behind a flock of 99 sheep

            and searches for the one lost sheep until he finds it.

 

God searches for people who are lost,

      like a woman with nine coins

            searches throughout her house for the one lost coin.

 

God searches for people who are lost,

      like a father of a runaway son,

            searches the road until his son returns home.

 

God searches for the lost!

Isn’t this wonderful news for you and me? –

            people who sometimes feel lost in life?

 

Some years ago there was a popular bumper sticker with the message:

                  “I Found It!”

The meaning of this message was that the person had found God.

 

But according to Jesus in our gospel reading for today,

            that message is completely backwards.

It is not we who find God.

It is God who finds us!

 

God is not the one who is lost!

We are!

We are the ones that need to be found!

 

We might think that we are the ones who need to find God.

This is the heart of all the world religions except Christianity.

All the other world religions teach that a person

            through religious activity and devotion

                  seeks to find God.

It might make sense to us that we have to do that same,

            but nothing could be further from the truth.

It is not we who need to be searching for God,

            but rather it is God who is searching for us!

It is God who comes and seeks us until he finds us.

 

In the late 1800’s a Christian poet by the name of Francis Thompson

            described God as the “Hound of Heaven.”

Thompson wrote in a poem:

      “I fled him, down the nights and down the days;

      I fled him down the arches of years;

      I fled him down the labyrinthine ways…

      From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.”

 

Yes, often we flee away from God,

      but God follows after us to find us and bring us back.

 

So this is a second thing we can learn from these parables.

Our God searches for us when we are lost.

 

Then the third main thing we can learn from these parables –

            God rejoices when the lost are found!

God throws a party when the lost are found,

            just like the shepherd did who found the lost sheep…

            and just like the woman did who found the lost coin…

            and just like the father did who found the lost son.

God throws a party in heaven.

God rejoices!

 

Now I know we don’t often think of God as the “partying type,”

            but he sure is when he finds someone who is lost.

God throws a joyful party in heaven and all celebrate!

 

Why?

Why would God rejoice over finding just one lost person?

 

Obviously he loves each one of us.

Each person is very valuable to God.

 

In the parable of the coins, the lost coin

      was equally as valuable as each of the coins that were not lost.

Each coin, whether lost or not, had the same value.

 

In the same way, each person, whether lost or not,

      has equal value in the eyes of our God.

 

You are of great value to God!

There is no one in this entire world who is more valuable to God

            than you are!  (repeat this sentence).

We are all equally valued and precious to our God!

No wonder then that when we get lost,

            our God searches for us until he finds us.

 

Maybe some of you parents can especially relate to this.

Have you ever had a child get lost?

Have you ever had a time

            when you had no idea where your child could be?

It’s a frightening experience, isn’t it?

Even if a child is lost from us only for a few minutes,

            it is enough to cause a parent to panic.

 

But oh!

What relief and joy there is when a parent

            find a child who has wandered off and gotten lost.

What joy it is to find a lost child!

 

What a celebration there is in heaven

            when even just one lost person is found by God!

He throws a party!

God is so happy!

 

So this is the third thing we can learn from these parables.

God values and loves each one of us so very much

            that he rejoices when he finds even just one person who is lost!

 

Consider John Newton.

He was a ship captain in the late 1700’s.

His job was to bring slaves from the coast of Africa

            to plantation owners in America.

One day he saw the error of his ways.

He realized that he was lost in sin.

He was overwhelmed by guilt

            over his participation in the slave trade

                  and other personal sins.

 

He had wandered away from God,

            but God came looking for him.

God found him and brought him back.

 

It was not long after God had found him

            that Newton sat down and wrote the words

                  of that beloved hymn:

      “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

                  that saved a wretch like me!

      I once was lost, but now am found…”   (E.L.W. #779)

 

“I once was lost, but now am found!...

            am found!... yes, am found!”

 

Being lost is a terrible thing.

But how wonderful it is to be found!

 

These parables of Jesus teach us three things.

First, each one of us sometimes gets lost.

Second, God comes looking for us when we are lost.

Third, God loves us so much that he rejoices when he finds us.

 

By ourselves, we often become lost.

But by a searching God, we then become found.

 

Lost and found!

 

            Amen.