Posts Tagged ‘Lost Coin’

What Does Lost Really Mean 9-11-16

In this sermon, based on Luke 15:1-10, I explore the notion of being lost. This is aimed both at when we are lost, and when things are lost to us.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-does-lost-really-mean-9-11-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

A couple weeks back I traveled up to the Twin Cities for a couple days of continuing education at Luther Seminary. I arrived in the Cities the evening before the class began, and so I had a little time to drive through some of the old neighborhoods that I frequented during the 2.5 years that I lived there.

Of all the different spots that I drove past, none was quite so weird as when I went by our old townhouse. It was just a little surreal to roll past our old front door, knowing full well that I couldn’t walk up the sidewalk and stroll in.  Like many other places in my history, its lost to me. Still there, but no longer accessible.

Now of course, I have a lot of different places that fall under this category. Homes where my family and I have lived…back rooms in my former places of employment…and while I have some feelings of nostalgia about all of these places…perhaps none have ever struck me as significantly as when I think about my grandparents old farm.

They had lived there as long as I could remember…and one of my favorite places on the farm was Grandpa’s shed. Every corner of that shed was filled with something. The workbench running all the way along one wall was covered with tools of every kind.  The walls were covered with rakes and hoes and brooms and all kinds of other stuff. There were piles of old equipment stacked up all over the place…and of course Grandpa’s tractors were always in there as well.

It is a place of significant memory for me…and not only the building itself, but the times standing next to grandpa as he was working on something…memories from as far back as I can remember. (pause) But as we all learn at some point in our lives, time marches on…and things change. After several years of declining health as well as complications from Alzheimers, my grandpa died in 2006…My grandma remained on the farm for a couple more years, and so it was still a place where I could visit…entering back into those cherished memories from time to time. But shortly after grandma died in 2011, the farm was sold. All the equipment was sold and carted away…although I wasn’t present when that all occurred.

But interestingly enough, the night before the farm changed hands, my brother spent some time in Grandpa’s shed…now completely cleaned out…barren and empty…and he sent me a picture, which I still look at from time to time. Every time I look at it, I find it strange…because that’s not Grandpa’s shed. Grandpa’s shed was full of stuff…that picture…well, it just a building. (pause) That picture serves as reminder for me that Grandpa’s shed is lost to me. (pause)
Now I share all this for what I suspect is fairly clear….the notion of loss…that there are things, or places, or people…that are lost…and as we think about the gospel lesson for today…and these two parables that Jesus shares about the lost, I find myself asking a couple of related questions.  First off, what does the word “Lost” really mean?  And secondly, a question for each of you…What have you lost? (pause)

The parable of the lost sheep, followed up by the parable of the lost coin.  Two brief snippets shared by Jesus in response to another batch of grumbling on the part of the religious elite. (pause) THIS MAN WELCOMES SINNERS AND EATS WITH THEM!  How dare he?

Certainly this is nothing new…we see this type of thing happening with a fair bit of regularity in the gospel narratives…when the big wigs…the “righteous ones” who OF COURSE…have it all together, criticize Jesus and labeling him guilty by association…for he willingly spends time alongside side these sinful people. He should know better. (pause)
And in response…the parables…what man having 100 sheep and losing one will not leave the 99 and go in search…rejoicing when he finds it…and what woman having 10 coins and losing one will not light a lamp and search diligently until she finds it…rejoicing when she does. (pause)
2 parables, both quite alike in the message that they reveal…that yes…things get lost…and yet the one that values that which is lost, will go to any length in order to find it…and because they value it so much, they will rejoice when it is found.

Now of course…the sheep and the coin…well they pretty clearly seem to represent those lost sinners that have come looking for something…and the rejoicing that goes on? Its happening in Heaven when the one lost to sin, repents…and comes back into the fold.

If we think along these lines, then it stands to reason that the one searching…the one so willing to set everything else aside, the one to bring light into the world to seek the lost in the darkness…pretty obvious that this is Jesus right? (pause)

Perhaps this gospel lesson comes across as a no-brainer…as obvious…as pretty cut and dry.  Sinners are lost to the one that values them above all others…and God will search beyond measure…and rejoice when that sinner is found.  (pause)
But to be lost in sin, is only one example of how we, the sheep…the coin…how we are lost…and now that word…lost…its sorta funny…because it carries a lot of different possibilities. Because something can be misplaced…only to be located and picked up again…no harm no foul…or on the flip side…something might be destroyed…or living things can die…and we would still call them lost.

And so thinking along these lines, I’ve pondered at great length about just what it means to be lost…both to us…when we lose something or someone…as well as when we ourselves are lost. (pause)

Perhaps one of the most pertinent examples of this happens to each us as we age…we slow down…our bodies don’t quite work like they used to…and things that once we took for granted…abilities, strengths…all the sudden we realize that we can’t do them anymore…and perhaps that’s something to grieve…and perhaps we realize that even our own self-image of who we are…has been lost to us. (pause)
But what about on the flipside…what are some of the ways that things of value…and more specifically, people that we value…that we cherish and love….how can they be lost?

I’ve already mentioned the theological aspect of being lost in sin…something that’s a reality for each of us…but what about the more tangible?  Loved ones are lost through the reality of distance…the separation that can result from broken relationships…we’ve seen first hand here in our community the reality of loss through death…when our loved ones cross that boundary where we are completely unable to find them.

But there are other ways as well…ways that are perhaps even more difficult to deal with…when someone we love is effected by mental decline…and the person that we remember…the person that we should encounter as we sit there face to face with them…just…isn’t…there.

Several families right here in our congregation are dealing with this reality…and with our extended life expectancy, I think its safe to say that most families have dealt with it at one time or another…and its devastating…to lose the person that we know, even while they are still physically with us. (pause)

So I ask again…what have you lost? (pause) Who have you lost? (pause) And finally…how are you…lost? (pause)  I can’t answer these questions for you…but I can remind you that this is the human reality…flawed and broken…and perhaps in each of these situations, we could say that there is the presence of death.

But…remember that we have a God who can…and does…create new life out of death…this is the promise of the gospel…this is the hope of the resurrection…that somehow…someway…that which is lost…whether metaphorically…or literally…WILL…BE…FOUND.

In the waters of our baptism, we are made heirs of the promise of the resurrection, joining with Christ, one day, in a resurrection like his…and though we lack the knowledge of just what this is going to look like…the promise remains. That the one that values each and every one of us more than any other can or will…God…will search…and God will find you…and on that glorious day described by the Apostle Paul when the trumpet sounds and we are all changed…somehow, those who are lost to us in the here and now will be found…whole once more. (pause)
This is the promise of the gospel…and the promise of Christ today…that we who are lost…will NOT stay that way…for God will continue to search in ways that go far beyond our human abilities to comprehend or achieve…and when we are found…then God will rejoice…and he invites us…to do the same. Amen.

I Once Was Lost

In this sermon I discuss the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin from Luke 15:1-10. I explore the notion of what it means to be lost and just what it means to be found.  You can hear the sound file here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/i-once-was-lost-9-15-13

The word file is here. As usual, disregard the odd punctuation and indications to pause. I gotta remember to do those things somehow.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
January…2009. St Paul Minnesota. The 2nd evening of my first stint on campus at Luther Seminary. Earlier in the evening, we had met with the dean of students. She had given us the normal spiel…enjoy yourselves while you are here. Enjoy the community and the school…enjoy your classmates…but make wise decisions while you are here…because if you do something stupid…I’m the one that gets the phone call…I don’t want to get that phone call…and you…DON’T WANT…me to get that phone call.
We laughed at that statement…and we were supposed to. After all…we were all adults…ranging in age from mid-twenties up to late-fifties…and not only that but we were seminary students. While the dean was serious in her warning…I doubt that she thought she was actually going to get one of “those” phone calls.
After the meeting was done with the dean, my classmates and I were all milling around…trying to decide what to do. Some were heading back to their rooms to hit the books. Others were talking about grabbing a bite to eat…and one guy…a guy that happened to be from Texas with no car on campus…was asking for a ride to Target. He needed some provisions for the 2-week stay. I heard the request and realized I needed to pick up a couple things as well…and so I volunteered to drive my truck to the store.
We made it to Target just fine…spent some time shopping…and proceeded to fill the back seat of my truck with shopping bags. Apparently my friends “provision list” was pretty extensive. As we were heading back towards campus, my friend mentioned one other type of provision that he wanted to pick up…the “cold one” variety…and so we swung through another store so he could pick up what he wanted…and a few minutes later a large case of “cold ones” went into the only available storage spot left in my truck…the back end…and we continued back towards our dorm. (pause)
Now here’s where things get a little shaky. Remember that this is my first time at school…and I was very unfamiliar with the area…and its winter…and its dark…and I don’t have a gps…you can see where this is going can’t you? I got…lost…totally. I missed the turn that would have taken me straight back to campus and so I ended up completely turned around in the midst of St Paul…just trying to spot something…anything…that looked familiar.
We drove around for a few minutes, and I was just trying to find one of the main roads so I could get some idea of where I was at, and then find my way back to campus when all of the sudden…there’s blue and red lights flashing behind me…and now I’m freaking out. I had no idea why I was being pulled over…but sure enough…I was.
I sat there, and through my mirror watched the policeman get out of his car, flashlight on…and start walking up past my truck…and as he’s walking past the back of the truck…I saw that flashlight flip over and stop on that case of beer…and I thought to myself. “I’m going to jail.” And even worse than that…when he finds out I’m from the seminary, then the dean…is gonna get “that” phone call…and I’m gonna get kicked out of school.  I was stuck…under the spotlight…everything was lost…and I was about to be found out.
Sound familiar? The notion of being lost? Sounds a lot like today’s story doesn’t it? Once again, we find Jesus in the hot seat with the political bigwigs. The Pharisees and the scribes are, yet again, giving him static because of the people that he attracts…we are reminded…yet again…that these guys don’t approve of sinners and tax collectors showing up at Jesus’ party…and yet again…they’re grumbling about it.
And Jesus…in his typical fashion…tosses a story or two their direction in order to set them straight…and today we hear two, very familiar parables…the lost sheep and the lost coin.  Which one of you, having 100 sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the 99 and go after the one that is lost until he finds it. Or what woman that has 10 coins and loses one, does not light a lamp and sweep the house until she find it?
Here we are…the lost…but just what does that really mean? To be lost? What is Jesus talking about with the sheep and the coin here today? We can assume that he’s being metaphorical because that’s what parable are…making a point with something a little more familiar and plain. But again, what does it mean to be lost?
Earlier this week I was doing a language study. I won’t bore you with the details, but I discovered that when Jesus uses the word “lost” in these stories, the word is normally translated as “utterly destroyed” or “to perish.” And so perhaps to say that the subject is lost is fitting. If something has been destroyed…or if someone has died than truly they are lost to us aren’t they.
But then what does that say about the sheep or the coin? If they are utterly lost…then it would seem that there is no reason whatsoever to go looking for them is there?  Think about it for a moment…what’s the point of searching…its destroyed…its gone…there is no hope so why on earth would the shepherd chose to leave 99 healthy sheep to go in search for something that’s as good as dead already?
Logic alone tells us that this is foolish…it makes no sense whatsoever for the shepherd to make this choice…and you know what…its even more crazy than we first think. Look at where the story tells us that the 99 sheep are left…out in the wilderness…THE GUY LEFT 99% OF HIS FLOCK OUT IN THE DESERT…the wilderness…at the mercy of the blazing hot, dry conditions…at the mercy of whatever wild predators might be roaming around…at the mercy of any other shepherd that might be in the area just waiting to scoop up a bunch of unattended livestock.  (pause) What would make this guy go out in search of the one that’s already lost? Let’s put a pin in that question for moment…we’ll come back in a sec.
Perhaps you’ve already made the metaphorical connection that Jesus implies with this story. Probably so…its pretty obvious isn’t it?  Humans are the sheep…Jesus or God…is the shepherd. The human gets lost and God goes to find them. End of story right?  Oh, bonus points if you recognize that the individual is lost because they are sinful.  (pause) Yep, that’s it…that’s the story in the nutshell…but now let’s back up to that question from a moment ago. What would possess God to leave the 99 and go in search of the one? Concern? Love? You betcha.
God chooses to leave the 99 in the wilderness to go seeking the one that’s lost…the one that’s utterly lost…the one that has perished…the one that has perished in their sinfulness…the wages of Sin is death…we hear that from the Apostle Paul in Roman…and so if we are lost in sin…if we are dead in sin then it seems like God is going on a mission that’s impossible.
God is going in search of the one that cannot be found…and worse yet, God leaves 99 alone to do it. And let’s think about that for a second…the 99 are left in the Wilderness…Is God being careless here? It sure seems like it…but is he? Is he really?  (pause) Remember someone else that went “into the wilderness?” Maybe, right after his baptism?  (pause) Jesus himself went into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan for 40 days…the wilderness…is the place of temptation…the wilderness…sounds an awful lot like life…and the difference between Jesus temptation and our temptation is that Jesus could beat it…but we can’t. Try as we might…we CANNOT do it.
So maybe what this story is telling us here is that the 99…alone in the wilderness…are actually the one…the one that is lost…each and every member of humanity is the one at one time or another…lost…perished…destroyed by our own sinful natures…we are stuck…alone…with no hope…
But despite all that…the shepherd goes in search of the lost…in search of the lost cause…in search of that which has no way of being found on their own. (pause)
Look at the stories again…both the sheep and the coin do nothing…absolutely nothing…to be found.  They are completely passive in this situation…just sitting there…doing nothing…but the shepherd and women both…look, and look, and look. They seek and never cease…until the lost is found. (pause)
And that my friends, is the reality that we find ourselves in. Utterly lost…dead in sin…utterly destroyed with no capability of getting ourselves found. We need another…we need help…we need the salvation from certain death and destruction…and that’s what God chooses to do for each and every single one of us. (pause)
But when we stop and think about it…that can be pretty tough to accept. That God…even God…would love me so much that He would seek for me in my own wilderness…the wilderness of my reality…in the darkness of my life…in the muck and mire that bogs me down…that sinful, horrible, awful reality that is my life…If God really knew…and really saw me…he wouldn’t…I’m too far gone…I am utterly destroyed…I am utterly lost…and if God really knew…he wouldn’t want to find me…I don’t want be found…I don’t want to be found out… (pause) I don’t want to be found out.
Maybe…deep down…that’s the fear that many of us face…that fear that if God really knew…or if the people at church…REALLY knew the truth about me…then I wouldn’t be accepted…I’d be cast out…or worse yet…left out to die…
But you know what…that’s exactly the lost cause that Jesus came to earth to solve.  God truly loves each and every one of us so much, that he was willing to get into it…head first…no holding back…Jesus lived it…he lived the darkness…he lived the temptation…he died for it…but then…he came back…and you know what…he chooses to bring each and every one of us back with him.
Friends in Christ you are that sheep…utterly lost…utterly destroyed…but Jesus waded into the darkness…and kept on searching until he found you…you didn’t do it on your own…but he kept looking until he found you…and that my friends is a reality worth celebrating… (pause)
Maybe you’ve heard this before…and maybe this strikes you as good news…and maybe you hear this and you find joy in remembering that moment when Jesus found you in the wilderness…and if you praise God…but maybe…just maybe…this is new for some of you sitting out there…maybe you’ve never heard this before…or maybe its never really sunk in for you before…this idea that God is willing to do the impossible with no help from you…FOR you…and if you are hearing this…and I mean really hearing it for the first time today then PRAISE GOD because he’s seeking you out right now….and HE WILL FIND YOU. (pause)
Remember where we left our story before? I was pulled over in St Paul, seconds away from a police officer coming to my window…shaking like a leaf because I was afraid that I was about to be found out.
When the officer came to the window, he asked me the normal question. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I answered no, and he said “Well, you pulled a little past a stop sign back there before you stopped, and I saw your Iowa license plates, and I saw you looking around…I could tell you were lost. Where are you trying to get to?”
I told him Luther Seminary…and he snickered…and he then he laughed…and then he got me where I couldn’t get on my own…I once was lost, but now, am found…may we all find the joy…in truly knowing that God, found us.  Amen.