Finding the Lost First UCC-Carlisle
9/15/19 Luke 15:1-10
Some people might be familiar with Rick Warren a pastor and TV evangelist for saddleback, a megachurch located in California. He has written a number of books during his 35 years as a pastor, probably the most well known among them are A Purpose Driven Church and a Purpose Driven Life. According to one internet source, he sold 30 million copies of A Purpose Driven Life. I have some thoughts and opinions about Rick Warren and his ministry at Saddleback, and about his books. But this is not really a good time to start that discussion. I would say that the simple notion of looking at one’s own purpose can be constructive and fruitful. Is this something we as individuals say we have done? Why are we in this world and what are we supposed to be doing with our time, our talents and our lives? What is our role in this community and in the world? What are we supposed to be doing in our lives as Disciples of Christ and children of God?
This topic of purpose is going to be revisited over the course of time, particularly in the upcoming months. And whenever we do take the time to look at our own purpose, it might be helpful to look beyond ourselves, and consider the other events in our lives. What is the reason that certain things in our lives? Hobbies, activities, social organizations. And along with these parts of lives, have we ever stopped thought about the purpose of church? What is the point of church? If we were to have a conversation about this, we might come up with some possible solutions, such as it is a place for people to go and worship in a community setting.
It is a location to hear music with a spiritual meaning, played by a very gifted musician, or performed by talented voices. It is a place to pray and listen to scripture and an interpretation of scripture by someone who is very fond of chocolate. Some other reasons people might go to church is to connect with other people within a spiritual setting, or to find answers, or to become grounded and centered if there are particularly difficult situation. Some people even might identify social connections and relationship s as another reason to be in a church.
These might be answers that people who have been coming to church for an extended period of time. What about the people who have not walked into this sanctuary space, or any sanctuary space? Perhaps we have connections with people who are not as familiar with church, maybe we do not. One viewpoint that is sometimes offered about the purpose of the church is that it is like a hospital. People who are not well, who are struggling, people facing life challenges, church is a place that can aid and support people in need, as well as offering a spiritual refuge for people. This viewpoint suggests that church can be a welcome place for the ailing and the lost, a term that we hear about in today’s passage from the gospel of Luke.
Some people might hear this passage from the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke and breathe a sigh of relief. It might feel good when a passage in the bible does not appear to directly apply to someone. Kind of like when we are in class and the teacher does not call on us to give the answer. We can take a moment and relax, and not worry. This passage has nothing to do with us, right. This passage has to do with people who are lost.
Jesus made the decision to sit down sinners and tax collectors. And his choice did not go unnoticed. The Pharisees and scribes observed this and felt that this was a poor choice. This perspective was being offered by the religious authority of that time.
These were the people who had studies the law of Moses for years and were able to recite all of the laws that could be found in holy scriptures. And it was the people with this knowledge who were judging and criticizing Jesus. They did not think his actions had any merit, and to be true to his calling, he would not have sat down to eat with them. Why wasn’t Jesus spending more time with those people who were on the RIGHT track, those who were found? What was he doing hanging out with the people who were LOST?
Jesus responds with two parables. The first parable says that if a person had a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, that person would go looking for it. This person would look for the lost sheep until he or she had found it. The point is NOT that he or she owned a hundred sheep. The issue is that one of those sheep is LOST, and must be FOUND. And when that hundredth sheep is finally found, the owner will call out to his or her neighbors and friends, and say REJOICE with me. A sheep was LOST, but it has been FOUND. Jesus then makes the comment that there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who did not need to repent.
Jesus continues to illustrate his answer with a second parable. He describes a woman who has ten silver coins. If she loses one she will look all over the house to find it. If it is dark, she will light a lamp and will not stop searching until she finds the coin. She will sweep the whole house. She will do everything she can in order to find this lost coin. When this woman finally finds the coin, she is not just going to celebrate by herself. She is going to let her neighbors and friends know that she has found this LOST coin. Whatever hour it is, she is going to say to them, celebrate with me, for I have found the coin that was lost.
Jesus is using these parables to demonstrate to the Pharisees that having one LOST person being found is truly important to God. Having one sinner repent is more important to God versus having lots of righteous people who do not need to repent. The righteous people have already been found. They are already important to God. BUT SO are the people who are LOST. The person who has that hundred sheep, values all one hundred. He treasures the ninety-nine sheep he has, but also desires to find that hundredth sheep. While the woman’s nine silver coins are important to her, so is that lost silver coin.
Those sinners, and those who are lost in the wilderness, need to be found. God wants to find them and put them on a path to righteousness. Those who are with God ARE important. The people who have been found matter, but just because there are many people who have already been found by God, that does not mean that the remainder of the people are not important. God created all life here on Earth. We are sheep in God’s flock of living creatures. God is trying to keep track of all of the sheep and does not want to lose ANY of the flock. God will do whatever is necessary to locate and rescue ALL of the sheep. Jesus did whatever was necessary to find those people who were lost. He sat with people who were sinners, he ate with people whom no one believed to be worth anything. Jesus ministered to the lost, and helped God rescue the lost sheep of the flock.
I think these parables make a couple of points for us today. First of all, church is meant to be open to all the people who have been found, but also for people who might be lost. The people who have had a faithful life for years have a relationship with God but God is not going to restrict a connection with someone because aof a past or where they are in life. The lost need to be welcomed into the church.
This is a purpose of the church that Jesus was pointing out in the parables.
I think we can also can take a parallel message from today’s passage. People may be found one, but may lose their way later. People may have been lost at one point, and then they found the path. But there is the matter of staying on the path. I wonder if any of us, have become confused or lost as a Christian. Losing ones way is not out of the question, even after being found. The Pharisees lost their way on what Jesus was doing. It could happen to other. So the church;s mission is for all people, not just perfect people, found people. The doors swing wide open
We must remember that everyone is truly valuable. Regardless of who we are, where we are on the journey of life, how lost we are or truly found we believe ourselves to be, we all have a seat in this church. God loves each of us in this church this morning. God will rejoice when EACH lost person is found again, and put back onto the righteous path. To God all people are indispensable, no matter what they look like on the outside. God values them. all people are crucial to God’s life. Just as that one hundredth sheep is so valuable to the shepherd’s life. Just as that tenth silver coin is indispensable to that woman.
There is a place for us in church. There is a spot for all of us in God’s family. We need to recognize this and then live in such a way so as to aid this process. Let us realize our purpose as disciples of Christ and part of the family of god in the life of the church. Let us take the message this morning that everyone is valuable to God, and we should do our parts as disciples and help be the shepherds for those lost (and possibly even the found) sheep. Let us be faithful disciples, and help Jesus recover what is lost to God even if it is ourselves. Let the people say Amen