“Rejoice with me. For I have found my sheep that was lost.” (Luke 15:6)
Besides being one of the best Christian bands of the 20th/21st century (at least to my peculiar taste – listen to our interview) – Lost and Found is a central Christian theme. We sing the familiar hymn from the heart, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see” (John Newton, “Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound” Evangelical Lutheran Worship. [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006], #779).
There is something special about the message of undeserved mercy and grace to “sinners and tax collectors” (Luke 15:1) when that promise is aimed at you. The appropriate response to that sweet embrace of love is a call for repentance, thanksgiving, and sharing with others the joy that comes from both the finding and being found. The two parables Jesus shares about a lost sheep and a lost coin (the third story Jesus shares about the prodigal and his brother [Luke 15:11-32] is read Lent 4C in the RCL; not this Sunday) result in communal celebration when what was lost has been found. When one finds a lost sheep or coin… and by inference a “wretch like me”; the result is a party on heaven and on earth alike. The cosmos joins in the celebration!
Look closer to where these stories are aimed…
“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eat with them” (Luke 15:2). It is “the Pharisees and the scribes “– i.e. the religious people, the churchy-types, the ones that do the ‘the right thing’ regularly, the ones who belong, the ones (as Jesus says somewhat tongue in cheek), “who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7) – that need to hear these stories because of their grumbling.
“Just so I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Sometimes it is the ninety-nine who needs to repent of arrogance and self-righteousness. It often becomes very easy for us on the inside to look down on those who are outside. It becomes easy for us to become smug towards toward those we feel are not as good as we are, dedicated as we are, devoted as we are, responsible as we are, as law-abiding as we are, as righteous as we are, as humble as we are (…and aren’t we the most humble people we know?)
We need to hear these stories again and again, just as the religious people judging and looking down at the tax collectors and sinners gravitating toward Jesus needed to hear them too. The kingdom Jesus proclaims is for everyone; especially those who have no business being part of it, or have wondered off track someplace and are lost to us.
Look to the seeking shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine for the one,the woman in the house diligently flipping everything over to find her coin to bring it back to the others (and the father waiting by the road to welcome home the prodigal). Jesus gives us some wonderful images in these three parable of how God relentlessly seeks after us.
When we see the abundance of unconditional love, mercy, grace, selflessness, welcome and restoration to those who don’t belong sitting at the table with Jesus – we see lives made new and transformed. The only appropriate response is to join the party! Our calling is to follow Jesus’ lead in looking for those on the outside, inviting those with no seat at the table to come and sit down, advocating for those who don’t deserve to be there, seeking reconciliation with those who have hurt us; eating, drinking and welcoming one another.
Let your go of your fears and reservations as you lean into that joy – even when the responses of others are different from the ones we hope that joy will inspire. Leave the changing of hearts to the Spirit.
In the meantime – keep seeking, inviting, welcoming, forgiving, and celebrating with the angels in heaven when a lost sheep or coin comes home. This is a glimpse of the kingdom to come – all of us will celebrate as we are surprised by God’s amazing grace!
-Have you ever found something you have lost for a while; how did you feel when you did?
-Who are the lost sheep / coins in your life?
-When have you wondered off or been lost – from family, friends, church, etc.?
-Where is Jesus in all this? Where are you?
Listen to NEW CREATION by Lost and Found. The lyrics are great.