Lost and found (preached on Sept. 15, 2013 at United Lutheran Church)

Luke 15:1-10 The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

The religious leaders, those on the inside of righteous community, the good guys, the church, are criticizing Jesus for hanging out with sinners, those on the outside, undersireables,  whores, drug addicts, tax collectors, the corrupt. “If he’s so holy, why does he eat with those folks? We don’t need  their kind.”

Jesus tells these stories (lost sheep, lost coin and prodigal son) because he is making a point about who God seeks to the pharisees and others who belong to the “in” crowd.

The sheep is lost. It wandered off, wasn’t paying attention. Lambs on first couple of moves, often don’t pay attention. They get left behind, wander away, until they can’t see or hear others.

The misplaced coin may have been carelessly dropped or it rolled away while she was counting her money. Maybe there was a hole in the bottom of the bag. It’s being lost is really not the coin’s doing.
The Prodigal Son, on the other hand deliberately took off and lost by own free will.

This isn’t a story about the lost as much as it is about the shepherd, the woman and the father. It is about how God loves us and is willing to take unreasonable risks and to pay a great price to bring us home, to find us, to welcome us back. It’s not about the 1 or the 99, the 1 or the 10, the older or the younger brother. It’s about God. Jesus is chastising the Pharisees for their envy and intolerance of those on the outside of respectability, their trying to tell Jesus that the company he was keeping was not respectable.

There is a cost involved in looking for the lost. There is the risk of losing the rest and the expense of a search. Is it economically realistic? What’s the risk assessment? The efforttaken to find the lost sheep and the lost coin doesn’t make sense economically. Still the shepherd looks for the missing sheep, and carries it home on his shoulders when he finds it. The woman searches high and low for her one coin and then calls her friends over to celebrate when she finds it. The father of Prodigal Son waits, he doesn’t go  looking, searching, but when son comes back he has a party.

Jesus talks about the party/celebration over finding the lost, return of the lost. There is no party for that which is already there and was never lost.

I can remember feeling jealous over the “amazing stories” about Christians who had led lives of addiction, immoral behavior, cheating stealing and then “found Jesus.” Good grief! I’ve been good all my life. Why doesn’t anyone want to hear about that? Why make such a big deal over someone who behaved so foolishly for so long? I should go out and misbehave so I can be saved!

But this is a story about grace and redemption, forgiveness and being found. It is not about being lost. It is about who God seeks and who we should be seeking and for whom we should be throwing a party. (Not just being happy they’re found, actually getting out the good china, the good silver, the best wine, having a PARTY, a celebration). Even the angels, Jesus says, rejoice over one who was lost and is found.

In some ways we (and the pharisees to whom Jesus was telling these stories) are also lost. None of us stay found all the time. We must daily be reborn according to Martin Luther and be found over and over again and each time, our heavenly father rejoices and welcomes us back.

Copyright © 2013 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains