Tag Archives: Lost

Lost Sheep, Lost Coins and Lost in 2022

GOSPEL: Luke 15:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8“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? 9When 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.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

Today we get to hear some familiar parables about the Lost – the Lost Coin and Lost Sheep. There is something deeply familiar about the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep, about the woman who tears apart her house to find her one lost coin. And if we were to continue after this, to hear the story of prodigal son. 

But just maybe this year, there is something different in the way we hear these parables. Something helps us identify different and see our selves differently in the story. 

If I am honest, I should confess my own bias in preaching these stories before. The previous four times I have preached on these parables, I have always found myself identifying with the 99 sheep, the 9 coins or more importantly the grumbling Pharisees. I have found it hard to see myself in the lost thing. Before, I tried to redefine what I meant to be lost or just preached about grumblers. In my sermon from 3 years ago, at the time a father of a 5 year old and 3 year whose whose whole life was chasing after lost people and things, I gave lost things and people a bum rap. 

But this year in 2022, as I read this story of Jesus and these two parables again, and it was almost like hearing them for first time. Since the last time this gospel lesson was read in church, our whole world and lives have been turned upside down.  We have known an experience of being lost and alone, all experiencing it at the same time, that probably many of us had never before endured. We all know today, in new ways what is means to be alone, to feel lost, to be surrounded by danger, and to long to be found and rescued in new and profound ways. And if you don’t, what were you doing during the past two years?

In the old world of 2019 where feeling lost and alone, abandoned and forgotten was a foreign, or at least private experience… this new world that we are now living in has plenty of loneliness to go around. It doesn’t take much to remember how recently the walls of our homes kept us in and others out, or that the streets and walkways were emptier than we have every seen. We have felt the danger of simply being with others, we have seen the rage of protest and frustration, we have welcomed the refugee fleeing a war that feels too close for comfort.

Just this week, we have born witness to tragedy in James Smith Scree Nation and Weldon. We got the alerts on our phones, TVs and radios. We grieve the violence and loss of life. And we are reminded of the complicated history that Canada bears with indigenous peoples and communities. 

And if that wasn’t enough to endure, the news came on Thursday that Queen Elizabeth died. After 70 years on throne, she is the only monarch that most of us have known or remember well. Her death is not only the loss of a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother whose life was dedicated to service in an role that was not of her own choosing, but she represents in many ways the end of era that spans the time from the Great Depression and World War II all the way to our 21st century pandemic world. We have known that that time late 20th century world was ending, but now it feels even more like we have transitioned fully to a new 21st century existence.

Now with all of that on our plates this week, we know understand now that feeling lost and abandoned, alone and in danger, has been a common experience for human beings through the ages. Being lost seemed like it was just a thing for those on the margins, those who fell into lives of abuse, addiction, and crime. But certainly as Jesus preaches to the Scribes and Pharisees, tax collectors and debtors, we can now understand the ancient world was full hardship and struggle. Feeling lost, hoping for salvation was common place. The people who hear Jesus preach would have known what it was to be lost, at least most of them. 

Their world was not one where there was much mercy and grace to be found. Sinners, debtors and the unclean rarely found help and care, rarely were they able to escape their circumstances. Once in debt it was nearly impossible to get out, once unclean it was a whole process to become clean again, once a sinner the whole community turned its back to you. 

So these crowds following Jesus, listening to his preaching about discipleship would have heard these parables of lost things as radical and unexpected, as stark contrasts to the image of a judgemental God that they were so often warned of. 

When the sinners and debt collectors hear the pharisees and scribes grumbling about Jesus caring for the lost, the expected response would be for Jesus to shape up and start following the rules. It simply wouldn’t track that a shepherd might risk the 99 for the sake of the 1. It is a waste of time and energy to tear apart one’s house just to find a single coin, when you still have 9.

So imagine the crowds hearing Jesus tell the story of the shepherd that leaves the 99 behind to go and find the one lost sheep. The story of the woman who takes apart her whole house in order to find a lost coin and then throws a party to celebrate. And finally the story of the prodigal son, the child who has lost to the world seemingly for good, returns home to the joy of his father and of course the jealous older brother. 

These stories of the lost things would have been radical to the ears of the crowds because they revealed a God far different than the one they had been taught to fear. They tell the story of a God who loves so deeply that God will search and find the lost and forgotten, God will go out to meet those who are alone and abandoned, God cares not just for the whole, the community, the herd, but just as much for the one, the individual, the personal. God who knows us as the family of faith called the Body of Christ, and who knows us that the beloved baptized child in whom God is well pleased. 

And this Shepherding God who goes out for the 1 sheep this finding God who searches frantically for the 1 coin, this loving God who runs out to meet the lost son on the road and goes out to me the resentful son in the field… this God is the One whom finds and gathers us up. Gathers us up from our scattered and separated lonely places, who brings us together in to one Body, one congregation, one family, who rejoices that we have been found, that we have been retuned home, that we are reunited in Christ. 

This same finding God continues to meet us in our world this week. As God weeps and mourns with the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, God promises that death is not the end and that there is New Life found in the Shepherd who search for the lost. As a commonwealth grieve’s the death of a beloved Queen and matriarch, while wrestling with the legacy of colonialism, God joins us again and again to a community, a Body and Kingdom in Christ that spans all time and space. As we contend with change that do not know how to manage, God reminds us that God has walked this journey with God’s people before, and God will show us the way now. 

This week, this year, more than ever before in our lives, we may have needed to hear these parables of the Lost as a church. We needed to be reminded of the loving finding God who doesn’t just look for those others that we consider lost, but loves and finds us, all of us. Because God knows knows that we are just as much the one lost sheep as we are the 99. God knows we are just as much the one lost coin as we are the 10 found ones. 

And the God who seeks, finds, knows and loves us is exactly who we need. 

The Lost Sheep & Lost Coin vs Caring Shepherd & Joyful Woman

Luke 15:1-10

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?…

“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?…

Finally, Jesus seems to be laying off the guilt trip this week. For the past couples weeks, Jesus has been giving us a hard time. Two weeks ago he was criticizing our sense of self-importance. Last week it was our holding on to possessions, and how they hold on to us.

Today, we hear two familiar parables. The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. They are connected to a third, the parable of the Prodigal Son, which we heard in Lent. And it is nice to hear something that sounds a little more Jesus-y. A little less Jesus the critic and little more of the feel good Jesus, the hopeful Jesus.

The experience of being lost and being found is something we can all identify with. We have all been lost or have lost something. We have been found or have found something or someone. Being found is a joyful feeling, finding that lost thing is a relief. And as that familiar song says, “I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.” We are deeply connected in faith to the idea of the lost being found. When Jesus talks about finding lost things, it is something that we feel down in our souls, in the very core of our being.

Jesus is talking to a varied group of listeners. Tax collectors and sinners, or more appropriately, debtors. The people who collected the money and the people who owed the money, along with the Pharisees and scribes, religious authorities. Upon hearing their grumbling about the company that he keeps, Jesus offers these first two of three parables.

A shepherd loses a sheep. One lost from the flock of 100. So he leaves the 99 in order to the find the one. Some might call it dedication, others might say irresponsible. But he finds the sheep and celebrates.

A woman loses one of her coins. A silver coin or day’s wage. She tears apart the house to find it and then throws a party. A lot of effort for just one coin, but she finds it and celebrates.

The point is made. The pharisees and the scribes might be grumbling about the presence of tax collectors and sinners, but lost things, lost people are kind of God’s thing. And yet, the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes does point us to a problem that we often seem to share. No matter how hopeful and feel good Jesus gets, we find reasons to grumble.

The Pharisees and scribes show us our own complicated relationship with the idea and experience of being lost.

I can remember those moments that stick in my memory from childhood. Wandering the aisles of the grocery store or the clothing racks of the department store, when my mother disappeared from sight. I was never lost for more than a few seconds or minutes, but the fear that so quickly sets in can be paralysing. It is the same for being lost in an unfamiliar city, or hiking through the mountains and leaving the trail only being unable to make your way back.

But perhaps, it isn’t just being physically lost. It is losing that job, losing that relationship, losing that sense of freedom because of illness or disability. Or maybe it is just feeling lost in life, unable to gather your sense of self enough to feel grounded and secure.

Being lost is terrifying, unsettling, debilitating. And when we are lost, or when we feel like we have lost out, we are quick to blame those around us. The map maker, or GPS company or city planners. The company we used to work for, the government, the economy, our ex, the disease or accident. Or maybe just the whole world seems to be at fault.

Yet, there has been a strange attitude that our world has been exposed to lately. The attitude that brings us Trump or Brexit or Canadian Values Screening. When others are lost, we are quick to blame the lost for their problems. Those people don’t need to come here and take our jobs. That person should have had the will-power to resist addiction. If he just tried a little harder at work. If she just gave him another chance. If they had taken better care of themselves, maybe they wouldn’t have gotten sick.

When we are lost, it is someone else’s fault. When someone else is lost, it is their own fault.

Being lost is a complicated experience indeed.

Some of your may remember all the way back to Lent and the story of the Prodigal Son. You may remember that the titles of parables are not what Jesus’ named them. The titles are what we, the church over the centuries, have named Jesus’ stories.

And the parable that we call The Prodigal Son is called by another name by the Eastern Orthodox. They call it the parable of the Loving Father.

And how we name the parable shows us which part we think is most important.

The parable of The Prodigal Son is about a spoiled brat of a son who spends his inheritance on partying, only to have to return home, hand in hand. It almost sounds like a cautionary tale!

But the parable of The Loving Father, well that is about a father who welcomes his lost son home with open arms.

Hear the difference?

When these three parables are placed side by side by side, the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Prodigal Son, we see that that the lost things have little to do with each other. It is hard to see the common thread between a sheep, a coin and a son.

Yet, when we compare the Shepherd, the Woman and the Father… each goes and seeks out the lost. The Shepherd leaves the 99 to find the 1. The woman turns her house inside out to find the coin. And the Father runs to greet his son while his son is still far off.

Each goes and seeks the lost. And then when the lost has been found, each celebrates. The Shepherd rejoices with his friends. The Woman throws a party for a coin. The Father slays the fatted calf for his son that was lost and now is found.

We name the parables after the lost things because we think the lost things are the most important parts of the story.

But just maybe Jesus isn’t making a point about what is lost, but instead who does the finding.

Maybe the parables should be named the Caring Shepherd, the Joyful Woman, the Loving Father.

Maybe Jesus is trying to make a point about just who is finding us.

The Pharisees and scribes want to blame the lost for being lost. We have a complicated relationship with the idea of being lost. We would blame everyone and anyone else when we feel lost, but anyone else who is lost has only themselves to blame.

Yet in the midst of misread maps and failing GPS, in the midst of lost jobs, lost loves and lost health… in the midst of all the things and people that are lost in our world.

Jesus is talking about being found.

Jesus is talking about who is doing the finding.

Jesus is talking about how God goes to extraordinary lengths to find lost things and people.

Jesus is talking about all those people that we are quick to label as lost,

tax collectors and sinners,

those who owe debts and those who collect,

those whose maps have led them astray in life,

those who know the loss of brokenness and suffering,

those who have no other place where they belong,

Jesus is talking about how all those people are the ones who God finds.

Jesus is talking about how all those people are us.

And in fact, when Jesus tells these parables again here today, Jesus tell us that no matter how lost we may feel in life, no matter much we focus on the lost things and the lost people, that the point of this story is being found. Jesus tells these parables about God who finds.

Jesus says today, that here, where lost sinners gather together to repent… that here we are the most found we can be.

Because our finding God has found us, in the forgiving words of grace, in the finding waters of baptism, in celebrating feast of bread and wine.

Jesus is telling feel good, hopeful parables today. Parables that we may think are about lost things and lost people. But parables that are really about Caring Shepherds, Joyful Women and Finding Gods.