We've been thinking today on our Mission Sunday about reaching out with the message of God’s love. One of the main aims of our church is to be outward looking.
And we need the message of Jesus’ love to be the motivation and the drive for us to love others.
So we’re going to look at these 3 parables of lost things found that Jesus tells.
Look at Jesus here in Luke 15 . The eternal son of God who has been sent into the world - he has crossed the great distance from heaven to earth. Fully God - his glory fills the heavens and yet he lowers himself to take to himself an additional nature, to share our humanity. He moves out towards us. And he comes to sit in the dust with broken people.
And then Jesus tells these 3 parables. Similarly themed. In each parable 3 things happen 1) something is lost 2) the loss leads to a search, 3) retrieval brings rejoicing
- something is lost
here’s the shepherd in his field caring for his sheep - how regularly do you do a head count? Must be difficult.. they keep moving..
Except perhaps this shepherd doesn’t have to count - he knows his sheep - hang on where’s fluffy? Haven’t seen him fluffy, fluffy. He’s wandered off again.
Sheep are nototriously stupid and rebellious they get themselves into trouble, they need the Shepherd. A lost sheep
Then here’s the woman counting her valuable coins. My mum would always don’t count your money you’re going to lose it. One of this woman’s coins is lost! She counts again that sinking feeling of realisaton grows ….A lost coin
Then a son comes to his father - says the unthinkable in that culture where you stayed with your father until he died; where you’d bury your Father and only then would you leave. He says give me my share of the inheritance now, i’m leaving now. It equates to saying ‘Dad i wish you were dead.’ He takes the money and leaves. A lost Son
I guess a reason why we might not allow our faith to extend out to people outside the church might be that we don’t really think that people need Jesus. Not really. most people seem perfectly fine without him. It can be comforting to have a faith but it’s not the end of the world, is it?
But this is not the view of the Bible. History is moving somewhere. The future is completely God’s future - and to be outside of that story is to be lost. Our true human home is in God; to be with God our Maker, the source of our existence. Perversely we know instead of enjoying God, we ignore Him. Instead of discovering our true purpose living his way. We say with Frank Sinatra, ‘I’ll do it my way”
Like a sheep wandering away from the Shepherd.
Or like a Son saying to his Father - i wish you were dead! i’d like my share of the will because i don’t want to be here a moment longer. That’s what we do - we say I’ll take the gifts thanks - life, pleasure.. but i don’t want you God. leave me alone God, you’re not God, I’m God. Ill do it my way.
This, we know, is the bias of our hearts. You don’t have to be a so called immoral or particularly dysfunctional person for this to be the case. The remarkable, sorted person who has given their life to charitable causes but has done so completely on her own terms with no reference to God is just as rebellious and just as Lost.
Lostness is an objective state - it is to have separated oneself from God - and left unchecked it will continue into eternity. People balk at the idea of God judging us but God’s judgement is completely fair. To the person who has said to God all their life. Leave me alone God, you’re not God, I’m God I will not have you as God over me. For that person - judgement will be to be given the very thing that they have been asking for. God will remove the light and life of his presence finally.
Sometimes the lostness of separation from God mercifully breaks into peoples’ experience. The constant busyness and purpose and fun - the illusion that we are in control of our lives gets rudely interrupted by feelings of emptiness, by the experience of tragedy.
Nect time you’re on the tube, in the pub, in your workplace. Look at them, people who look so fine on the outside.. and they may doing ok or they may be breaking up on the inside w- we so often don’t know/ But without Jesus these people are lost, utterly lost and ultimately lost. Jesus came and he looked at the crowds and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and he sat down and he taught them about the kingdom.
Because, 2nd thing in the parables is that
Each loss results in a search.
The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep and goes in search of the 1. Isn’t that extraordinary.? If I was looking after a hundred sheep and only one went missing id think - well i haven’t done too badly. But not this shepherd. He’s not a generalist. He cares about the 1. He embarks on a search and rescue expedition.
The woman …turns the house upside down in search of the coin.
The father - implicit in the fact that he sees his returning son from a great distance and runs to him - is the reality that this Father - was a horizon gazer. Every day this loving Father’s eyes never strayed for long from the horizon; from the road, longing for his son to come back. Whatever work he was doing regularly he’d break off to look out for his son. I bet people noticed him doing it. Perhaps some tried to dissuade him. “Give it up, do yourself a favour forget him, he’s never coming home. And anyway he did a disgraceful thing.”. He looks at you with tears in his eyes and says, ‘He’s my son - he’ll always be my son.” And his eyes return to the horizon.
I think it might be a sign of getting on a bit .. but i’m always misplacing things and occasionally losing things. Where are my keys! And when you lose something you can tell the value of that thing to you by the manner of your search. If you turn over a few cushions and shrug your shoulders and turn back to watching Strictly - it obviously wasn’t valuable. But if you’re missing strictly! Urgentlyturning the house upside down because you can’t relax until you’ve found it, retracing your steps, can’t sleep for racking your brains - then the thing that is lost must be of tremendous value to you! the value of the thing to you is revealed in the manner of the search.
Here’s another reason why we might be restricted in our motivation to live and speak the gospel out there in the world. We don’t see people as that valuable. People - huh! Look at them running around. Surely not that valuable ultimately?
Oh really? The nature of the search indicates the value of the thing.
Humanity was lost and Jesus Christ did not merely shrug his shoulders, No, he crossed the great divide from heaven to earth to come and find us. We had offended God in an obscene way and yet Jesus though perfect in his divinity humbled himself to share our broken humanity. He went from Glory to a stable floor. From the company of angels to the friendship of sinners. From the throne of Creation to the agony of the cross. To cover our offences to reconcile us to God.
How do you imagine God? how do you picture him? a distant thundering figure, who prefers fear and respect to love. Who forgives yes but reluctantly and after making the penitent person squirm? That is not the picture Jesus gives. Jesus tells of a crazy caring shepherd; of a housewife jumping up and down over the rediscovery of a lost coin; of a Father humiliating himself by running to embrace a son who has squandered half the family fortune.
Here’s the thing you see - You and I have never clapped eyes on a human being who isn’t of absolute value to God. We might not know them, they may mean nothing to us. But God… he would die for them if they were the one person on earth.
Here is the movement of the gospel. God moves out towards a lost humanity - that he values and loves. He reclaims us as his own and then enlists us to his loving mission. Jesus says to his disciples (his reclaimed ones). As the Father has sent me now I am sending you. My disciples, Go into all the world and make disciples. who will in turn makes disciples and on and on..
People so matter to God, And we pray for the enlarging of our hearts that people might matter more and more to us.
The three parables end on similar notes
Retrievals bring rejoicing.
When the man finds his lost sheep, when the woman finds her lost coin, when the Father finds his lost son - the pattern is the same they call their friends and neighbours, come and celebrate with me! We’re killing the fatted calf, party of the century. Come on!
Why - what are we celebrating? It’s not your birthday? No. an anniversary? No. You’re getting married!!? No! You’ve got a job promotion? No!! What then?
I’ve found fluffy! Fluffy? my lost sheep! - OK… what do you wear to a lost sheep party?
Come and celebrate with me
I’ve found my lost sheep, my lost coin, my lost son
Just as we reserve the fullest searches for the things we think are the most important so we reserve the biggest celebrations don’t we for the things that we think are most important. Depending on whatever big story is governing our lives. If I’m living for material success and career achievement then the biggest celebrations in my life will be to celebrate promotions and contracts. If it’s human relationships and families (probably a much healthier story) then it will be weddings and anniversaries.
But according to Jesus - look at what gets the champagne flowing in heaven - in God’s dimension - look at what is deemed the reason for rejoicing v7, v10 rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. One lost person comes home. The Kingdom is growing. This is the story that governs all reality. What really matters. That which energises heaven. Well may it be so for us.
as you go back out into the world on monday morning…
as you look at people all around you will you consider with me the nature of lostness, the movement and strength of God’s love towards people, the joy of salvation and restoration. will you pray for holy imagination to see things as God sees them and to move towards people with compassion and hope.