Posts Tagged ‘Lost’

Lost 9-15-19

In this sermon, based on Luke 15:1-10, I explore two of the three “lost” parables of Jesus, the sheep and the coin. The similarities that we find in the parables point us to an important question…what does it mean to be lost?

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/lost-9-15-19

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

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen

It probably goes without saying that we all have stories about getting lost…some might be personal experiences when we were the one who got turned around…some stories are from the times when it was someone that we know who ended up in the wrong place. They take on many shapes and forms.

But if there’s one thread that slides through them all…it’s probably a sense of unease…maybe even borderline fear…that comes creeping in…and since we’ve all lost our way at one time or another…we have the tendency to teach others important safety steps to take if and when they find themselves in something similar…and this is probably most common between parents and their kids.

I remember dad drilling into us what to do if we ever got lost in a cornfield…YOU FOLLOW THOSE ROWS IN A STRAIGHT LINE…oh and when you get to the end of the row, start counting…you’ll cross either 8 or 16 and then you’ll find the edge of the field.

I also remember mom’s instructions for if we ever found ourselves separated from the family.  Look for someone in uniform…an officer or security guard…or if you’re in a store…go to the front desk and ask them to send a page. I first heard these instructions from mom after my older brother disappeared in the local mall…and I remembered them a couple years later when I was the one who wandered off.

But maybe the most telling is the way that I internalized those instructions…and apparently passed them on to the next generation…and this came to a head back in our days living in Minnesota.

The kids were pretty small during that 2.5 year period in our lives…small enough that the idea of “getting lost” was something we had to be aware of…and it happened one day when my wife took the kids to the public library…now by this point, we’d already lived there for a bit and had one specific location that we always went to…but on this particular day, Emily took the kids to one of the dozen different library locations…one that everyone was unfamiliar with…and sure enough…at one point she stepped around to the next aisle…and a moment later Jack realized…I’m all alone. (pause)

Now proud parent moment…his training…kicked…in. He knew what to do…the exact same thing his grandma had taught me years before…go to the front desk and have them send a page…but here’s where things took a bit of an odd turn.

As Emily heard the page come over the speakers, here’s what she heard…Would the LOST MOM…please come to the front desk. (pause) Interesting distinction isn’t it? In my son’s mind…he wasn’t lost…she was. (pause)

Now that idea of being lost in one way or another…that catches my attention today…and that’s probably understandable isn’t it? Today our lesson features some parables of Jesus…quite well known…two of the three known simply as “the lost parables.”  Illustrations that Jesus puts out there in light of another round of criticisms coming his way for who he choses to spend time with…for the company that he keeps…even going so far as to breaking bread and celebrating with them. (pause)

If a guy’s got 100 sheep and he discovers 1 is missing…will he not leave the 99 out in the middle of nowhere and go looking…looking everywhere…high and low…over hill and dale…behind rocks and in caves…until he finds that pesky one all by itself. (pause)

Or if a woman has 10 coins…and oh no! She discovers that somewhere along the lines one has been misplaced…she’ll grab the flashlight and look EVERYWHERE!!! Upstairs, downstairs…in the basement…under the rugs…she’ll yank the couch cushions out of the way…strip the bedding…she’ll even dig into the sink drain if she needs to…she will look…EVERYWHERE…until she finds that pesky coin. (pause)

Two short parables…two different examples that, honestly…have a whole lot in common don’t they?  The situation that Jesus presents in both is pretty much identical…and the end result is as well…something that we maybe even take for granted simply because of the familiar nature of these parables.

In both cases…the lost sheep and the lost coin…when the lost is found…the results are the same…Joy on the part of the one searching…and then they call together their friends and neighbors for a celebration…COME TOGETHER…Share my joy! Because I have found that which was lost to me. (pause)
Even Jesus’ explanations come across pretty straight forward in both of them…I tell you…there will be MORE joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents…than over 99 that have no need of repentance. (pause) Its sorta like “DUH” right? Like for once…the point that Jesus is trying to make is SO ABUNDANTLY CLEAR…that we could just leave it right there.  I could seriously just say Amen and sit down couldn’t it? (pause) But I won’t…because there’s more to explore here than just the face value of these parables about being lost.

I want you to think about WHAT was lost for just a moment. A sheep…and a coin…and bonus points for you if you know what’s lost in the third parable that comes right after this one…not just one…but two sons who are in some way lost to their father…the common thread between all of these things…they are valued by the one who lost them…treasured by the one willing to look high and low…who will forsake everything else, until the lost is found.

But the question that is really rattling around in my head…how did they get lost in the first place? Prodigal son aside…because we know that he went off on a whim, and his older brother was lost in stubborn judgmental pride….but let’s just think about the sheep and the coin.

First the sheep…well, that could have happened in a variety of ways.  We all know a sheep isn’t exactly the Einstein of the animal kingdom…so this pesky little oddball could be lost due to a lot of different circumstances.  Maybe it wandered off looking at a particularly tasty looking tuft of grass.  Maybe it managed to get its foot stuck in crevice…or it fell in a hole and was physically unable to follow along with the rest of the flock when the guy moved them along…maybe a predator came along and spooked it so it ran away…or who knows, maybe this was the weird sheep that the other sheep didn’t like, and he wasn’t lost so much as they kicked him out…who knows. (pause)

The coin…well that’s a little easier to put our finger on…a coin can’t just up and walk away…so clearly the woman somehow misplaced it…she was responsible in one way or another…and even though the coin was lost…we can’t exactly place the blame on an inanimate chunk of metal. (pause)

So what do we take from this? That maybe, just maybe…there are a lot of different ways to be lost…and that sometimes, the one we think is lost might not even realize it.  That sheep might have been having the time of his fluffy life…and the coin sure didn’t care.

And maybe…another way to think about this falls in line with the way my son was thinking at the library all those years ago…he was exactly where he was supposed to be…and MOM was lost…maybe the sheep was right all along and it was the flock that was misplaced. (pause)

Now its possible that I’m overthinking things here…but this was the question that really came to the forefront as I worked with this text through this week…what does it mean to be lost? (pause) And not just in the “scriptural” sense…but in our reality? How can we start to connect this concept that Jesus is presenting with our regular day to day existence?

How do we feel lost? And how do we view others that makes us place them in that same category?  I can generalize…we’re lost in our ability to overcome the brokenness and sinfulness that is inherent within our regular lives.  Some of us might feel lost due to our present circumstances…when the world just seems to have it in for us and we are swept up in things that we are powerless to control or stop and all we can do is bounce along in this painful ride.

Maybe we look and see someone lost in an addiction of one kind or another…and no matter how hard they try…or on the flipside no matter how hard we try to offer them a hand to step back out of that battle…they’re stuck in it. And like the coin, they don’t even realize it.

Or maybe it’s the presence of mental illness…something that goes beyond anyone’s ability to control or manage or maintain…and the person that we know…the person and the personality that we expect…that person just isn’t there and they are lost to us.

This list could go on and on…and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if we went around the room, pretty much everyone in here could list a way that they feel lost…and a way that they see someone else who is lost as well…should we raise hands on that? (pause)

So all that being said…where do we go from here?  Is there some good news to be found?  It seems like it right? Jesus is talking about celebrations in heaven…and he’s talking about repentance and joy…so yah, it seems like there’s some good stuff sneaking around.

And maybe to find it…in order to put our fingers on it…we need to back up to something we just talked about a week ago. If you were here…you remember that in the midst of a REALLY difficult teaching from Jesus…we had to skip ahead to these parables in order to remind us of the good news that we have a God who willingly took on that role of the man looking for a sheep…of the woman looking for a coin…not to mention a father looking for both of his boys.

We have a God who WILL NEVER stop searching for us…we could even say shining that light like the women in the parable…the diligence of the one who made us…the one who values us beyond measure…it is never ending…and it goes beyond all logic.  That perfect love of God…that grace…it finds us when we are utterly lost and incapable of doing anything about it. And not only that…it will look past all those who are presently accounted for, leaving them behind to go in search of you.

That’s the amazing thing about God’s grace and love for you…no matter what your situation…no matter what situation has you wrapped up and knocked down…utterly lost…we can look to our God who took on flesh and dwelled among us…that God who became tangible…showing us that when we can’t get to him, he’ll come to us…and realizing that no matter what this messed up broken down flawed reality might throw our way…or even what our own brokenness might make us throw at ourselves…we can look to God and confidently say “Your grace will fight for me. It’ll leave 99 to go in search of one…and I…am…that…one.” (pause)

No matter which direction we want to look today…whether we are the sheep trembling in the wilderness…or whether we look and see someone who’s the coin…not even aware enough to know they’re lost…we are all on even ground as we realize that the gospel is the same for each of us…and that gospel says that YOU ARE THE ONE, who Jesus will not give up on.  Amen.

Celebrate 3-31-19

In this sermon, based on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, I explore the parable commonly known as the Prodigal Son, along with the two short parables partnered with it, that reveal a call to celebration over the lost being found.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/celebrate-3-31-19

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

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen

Many of you have heard me share that Spring is my favorite season of the year…after the slog of winter, the warm fresh air, the beautiful sunshine…the birds singing and the signs of all the plant life perking up…all of that is just wonderful…and I always get a little charge out of the first time that these wonderful spring conditions allow me to walk over to the post office to get the mail.

Its an odd thing to notice and appreciate…but admittedly I do it…and I had that joy for the first time about a week and a half ago…and in the days since, I’ve had several more opportunities to repeat the process…including a couple of absolutely gorgeous days earlier this past week… and each time I made that brief excursion across town, it was wonderful and all was right and good in the world.

But then…as you may recall…the weather took a bit of a dip…getting cloudy and cooler, not to mention a little windy and drizzly here and there…and while it was still typical spring weather…it wasn’t QUITE as nice.  That, as you may recall…was the case on Friday…and yet…about 11 o’clock, I threw on my jacket and set out for the post office anyway.

Now when I stepped outside, I noticed it was cool and there a breeze…and while it was slightly uncomfortable, I didn’t think too much of it…until I left the post office and turned myself back towards the church…and it was only then that I realized that our gorgeous spring weather from earlier in the week, had in fact given way to 40 degrees, cloudy and nice blustery north wind slamming in the face. In that uncomfortable instant I said to myself…maybe this wasn’t too well thought out…You might say that I woke up…or that I came to myself….about the truth of my current situation.

Now granted…this wasn’t the end world…5 minutes later I was back in the church office none the worse for wear…but that moment of sudden realization of reality put me in mind of our gospel story today…and this parable that Jesus shares.

Now its worth noting that the setting of this whole deal is part of a bigger moment from Jesus, through the parable itself is long enough.  But Jesus, in a moment of interaction with the religious authorities of the time, is catching some flack…he’s being criticized for the company he keeps…for the fact that he is often found sharing a meal, or simply spending time in the company of “sinful folk.”

When Jesus hears their remarks…he responds with a series of parables…three to be exact…all of which fall under a pretty similar theme…We’ve got the parable of the lost sheep, in which the shepherd leaves behind the flock of 99 in order to search out and find 1 lost sheep…and once the lost sheep is found, he calls together his community so they can celebrate together…because the lost has been found.

Following that, Jesus tells a story of women with 10 coins, who suddenly realizes that one is missing and she searches HIGH and LOW, until finally finding it…and likewise, she calls together her neighbors, probably spending one if not more of her coins in order to celebrate that the lost has been found.

And then, in the story that we heard, Jesus shares a rather extensive narrative about a father and two sons…a parable that is pretty well-known…arguably one of the two most familiar parables in the gospels…and one that’s even become synonymous with individuals who wander off in one way or another before finding their way back home…the prodigal son.

This oddball idea that a younger son would demand his inheritance so he can traipse off and live out a crazy lifestyle, only to run out of money and face the consequences…then coming to his senses…and realizing the prosperity and even generosity of his father to the entire household…and with that, its time to go home…but he’s not without shame, and he plans to reveal himself, not as a wayward son, but simply as an individual willing to become a servant in order to be taken care of.

But that’s not what happens…and this amazing father, who has stood there day after day, looking for his son, when he finally sees him approaching…he runs to him in joy, for what was lost to him has now been found…and the son is restored…the fattened calf is slaughtered and prepared so that the entire community can celebrate, for what was lost and was as good as dead, has been found and is alive again. (pause)
But the story doesn’t stop there does it? And that’s why I’ve often thought that calling this the parable of the prodigal son does a disservice…because we’ve got the older brother too don’t we? The dutiful one…the one who stayed home, and to hear him talk, he has slaved away for all this time…doing what was expected of him…all without fanfare or recognition.

And when big brother learns about the celebration going on in the house…and discovers the reason…he’s angry…he’s upset…and he refuses to go in and participate…and so that same loving father, who looked every day for his wayward son, goes out in search of the other, because now, this older son, too…is missing.

We know how it ends…they go back and forth…the entitlement and perhaps victim complex of the older brother comes out in his complaint against the younger and against the father…and yet the assurance is there…you are always with me…all I have is yours…but we MUST CELEBRATE…for he who was lost is now found.

That’s how the parable ends…and in fact that’s how the whole passage ends…we don’t know if the older son comes in to join in the celebration…to join in the festivities…the party which is ongoing throughout this entire exchange over what’s right or wrong…over who’s deserving or not. (pause)

One long parable, part of a larger batch of three which all reveal the same thing…when someone or something of value is lost and then found…its worth celebrating…and not just by the one who found them…but with the whole community…everyone is invited.

And as I thought about all that…I went back to the setting in the first place…Jesus, like the father, has been criticized for how he responds to certain people…and then, there are those who seem to put their stock in appearances…in following the rules…have been blinded to the invitation into fellowship and celebration.

Is that’s what going on here in the big picture…that whatever it is that God is accomplishing through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus…that it is worth celebrating…and that the invitation is universal…that somehow we are all part of the party whether we chose to act like it or not?

Is that’s what’s happening? Like the community that surrounded the father and the younger son and all the rest of the household who joined in the celebration…they lived that moment accepting that they are a part…or like the older brother, who is always with the father…and therefore is a part of the celebration as well…but chooses to act as if the opposite is true…is that what’s happening…as Jesus breaks bread and shares a meal and joyful fellowship with so-called “sinners?” Are they the ones accepting in the invitation and living out this moment as part of the celebration…and are the ones being so critical missing out on the fact that they are included too…and living out this moment in a way that reflects it? (pause)

I often wonder if that’s what’s going on with this whole Kingdom of Heaven thing that Jesus has assured us has come near.  We often talk about how the kingdom is both now and not yet…and that we catch little glimpses of it in this life…and how we are invited to live our lives as if the kingdom DOES exist now…and that maybe, just maybe that’s how God is at work to bring it into existence in the life to come…that Heavenly banquet…that heavenly celebration that God has promised us.

That’s the good news of this passage…that the invitation to join in the party has already been extended to all of us…for we are ALL a part of the community…and what joy to celebrate together all that has been lost, which is now found…to celebrate all that was dead and is now alive. (pause)
Now that being said…something had to happen in order for the celebration to begin within this parable…anyone catch it?  Before the party could start…the calf had to be killed…something had to die in order for this particular celebration to occur…and maybe, just maybe, that is a sober reminder of where we look for Jesus…because it was in the death and then subsequent resurrection of Jesus that the kingdom celebration became possible…that’s a sobering thought…but a timely one as we inch ever closer to Good Friday and the cross.

But thanks be to God that the cross isn’t the last word in this story…and that on Easter Christ rose from the grave…and somehow, someway, we have also been promised the same…that we have been made heirs of the same promise…and that we have each been claimed as beloved children…and that is what we are celebrating today…as Cameran and Dilyn will be brought to this font…where they will be washed in the waters of baptism…and the claim of God upon their lives…the invitation into the celebration, which has already been offered through Christ…will be made manifest in a physical way for them.

And what a joy it is for us…the community who surrounds them…to be here today, to join in THIS particular celebration…a celebration which has already begun…and a celebration which God has promised us will carry on in the life to come. Amen.

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.

Jesus Gets Lost

This morning’s sermon is based on Luke 2:41-52. This story is the single story we have from Jesus’ childhood.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/jesus-gets-lost-12-27-15

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

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Anyone ever gotten lost before? I’m going to go out on a limb and figure that at one time or another, just about every one of us has. But more specifically, how many of you ended up lost when you were a kid? (pause) And on the flip side, how many of you parents out there were on the other side of that coin? (pause) It’s a scary deal isn’t it…but of course depending on the situation itself and your particular role in it…the decree of scary-ness changes. (pause)

Now I’m sure it probably comes as no great shock as to why I’m bringing up the notion of getting lost considering today’s gospel lesson. And also as many of you here have gotten used to my particular style of preaching, I’m guessing that you are sitting there expecting me to open all this up by sharing a story of my own…and rest assured, I’m about to…but as I kept reading through this passage in preparation for today’s sermon, I found that I couldn’t limit it to just a single instance…but rather…I have 4 different times that I need to bring up. (pause)

The first one occurred when I was pretty young…probably about kindergarten or maybe even a little bit younger. Now I don’t remember very much about the situation, only that I was at the mall with my mom and siblings…and somehow, simply because I wasn’t paying attention, I wondered away and got separated in whatever store it was that we were in. At first, I didn’t even notice as I was a rambunxious little kid…but once I did notice that mom was out of eye shot, I got pretty scared…until such time as she found me. It probably wasn’t even that long…and maybe I wasn’t even lost…maybe she knew exactly where I was…but for me as little kid, it was scary. (pause)

Now fast forward to me being about 16…able to drive…and for whatever reason school let out early…and rather than just go home, I figured that I’ve give a buddy a ride home and hang out at his place for until such time as I would normally get home…This was all well and good until I actually got home and my dad ripped into me…having of course, heard on the radio that school was getting out…and then not knowing where I was for several hours. I wasn’t scared time around…but I think he was…and once he knew that I was okay…well then scared turned into angry on his part. (pause)

Fast forward again…I’m a parent, and actually already living here in Underwood. The kids are outside playing with some of the other neighborhood kids, and after a little while I step out of the house to see where they are…and I can’t find them…so I holler…and I don’t hear anything…so I walk around…and I start knocking on doors…and finally, after about 30 minutes…they all pop out…having been playing behind the big pine tree that used to stand right outside this sanctuary…they hadn’t been able to hear me calling for them…they weren’t scared at all…but I was…

And finally, not long after that…we were at a family reunion at a park over on the Omaha side, and my son Jack went down to the lake with one of his cousins to fish. We weren’t concerned, until such time as we started taking family pictures, and I went looking for the two boys…and couldn’t find them…and we tried calling a cell phone, but there was lousy reception…and pretty soon the whole family was looking…and everyone was in a panic…until pretty quick the two boys popped up from their fishing spot…ironically only about 100 yards away from where I’d been looking, but around a corner…once again…they weren’t scared…but the rest of us were… (pause)

Can you relate to any of those stories…have you ever been the one who was lost and scared…or the one who was lost to everyone else and you were fine…or the one who was searching for a child…and in a blind panic? (pause)

Isn’t it funny how a person will react when they are in those different situations…how the context of their particular situation in that moment, changes their reaction. I’ve run the gambit from being the terrified little kid, to being the irresponsible teen that didn’t check in, to being the parent growing more and more terrified at my own missing kid…and its only looking back now at those different instances that I recognize the transition that I have gone through in my own experience through my own reaction to these different situations. (pause)
Now I bring all of this up, for what is probably pretty apparent by now. Our gospel lesson is certainly unique today…Jesus get’s lost…an important story taken from Jesus’ adolescence…which is unique and important for several different reasons…This story is unique as it is the single instance that we see between the birth of Jesus and the transition into his ministry and adulthood at about the age of 30…and important as it stands as a transition from Jesus really being a passive side note character, to taking the forefront as the center of the narrative…We see different characters begin to fade out as he comes more into the main focus. (pause) And it all happens as Jesus ends up lost.

Just how the situation occurs, we don’t really know…other than Jesus has gone from his home in Nazareth to Jerusalem along with Mary and Joseph…and probably the rest of the town as well…in order to celebrate Passover, something they did each and every year…but this year…as Jesus is transitioning from boy to man…taking a little more responsibility for himself…and when the whole crowd bunches up to head back towards Nazareth…Jesus takes upon himself to remain…we don’t know why…we don’t know if he’s too engaged in something right in front of him and overlooks everyone leaving…or if he’s mad at his parents…or if something in the temple catches his attention so he stays put…but either way…Jesus remains…and everyone else leaves.

And before you come down on Mary and Joseph for dropping the ball…though admittedly they sorta did…a day goes by…Joseph walking with the men…Mary with the women and the children…and each assuming that 12 year old Jesus is with the other…until they discover that he isn’t…Joseph, Jesus was with you and the men right? No…he was with you and the women and children right? No (pause) Oh…Shoot. (pause)

Panic sets in…and its another day’s journey back to Jerusalem…and frantic searching…the panic and the terror for their missing child growing with every passing moment until finally after days of separation…they find him in the temple…sitting there listing to teachers and engaging with their questions…and everyone around is amazed at this kid.

Everyone except Mary and Joseph that is…and as one would expect…now that they’ve seen that Jesus is okay…the anger kicks in…and Jesus get dressed down. “Child…why have you treated us like this? We have been searching for you in great anxiety.” (pause) Mary’s words aren’t surprising are they? Their little boy, not quite so little any more has given them quite the fright…but Jesus…well his response comes across as both typical of a preteen young man…as well as pretty astonishing….because he wasn’t scared…he’s just been hanging out…engaged in what’s important to him…but that’s the kicker because what’s important to him seems to be learning about the faith of his true father…of God…and how better can he do that then by engaging with the very teachers who are surrounding him. (pause)
But Mary…and probably Joseph as well, though he’s kind of a background character here…fail to grasp just what’s going on, but Jesus comes with them…and they go home…and he continues to grow…and he gains wisdom and favor with the divine and with other people…and in the midst of all this…Mary treasures things in her heart.

Now if you were here Christmas Eve for the birth of Jesus…I talked about that same thing…Mary treasuring these things…pondering on them…trying to make head’s or tails of just what is going on with this boy of hers…as she continues to experience a multitude of divinely inspired moments in and around her son.

And you know what, we share a lot with Mary don’t we…perhaps we can relate to her as a parent…perhaps we can relate to her astonishment when she, as a young girl likely not much older than Jesus in today’s story, encounters an angel and ends of divinely pregnant…she was just a kid herself in those days…and yet experience after experience…encounter after encounter with different individuals who were inspired by God to witness to the newborn Messiah, Mary continued to experience that which is astonishing to her.

But today, we see the transition…for after this story…Mary becomes completely secondary…merely a fellow follower of Christ, who won’t pop up by name again in Luke’s account until the beginning of the book of Acts, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. And today we see the transition of Jesus into the front and center…as the active character here in the story of what God is up to in the world. (pause)

But here’s the thing…this story also represents another important truth…and something that we should all ponder in our own hearts. Just a couple of days ago…we celebrated the birth of Jesus…a well known story…and after today…Jesus is all grown up…but what we often times seem to gloss over is the fact that God did…in fact…become human…something that we often fail to really comprehend. (pause)

Just a couple weeks back, the confirmation and adult forum class talked about the second article of the Apostles Creed, which of course focuses on Jesus…and in our discussion we talked about just how hard it is to consider Jesus to be both God and human…we just can’t wrap our heads around it…and so we tend to really think of him as one or the other…and I’m just as guilty of that as the next person…and in the midst of that, don’t we forget that being fully human doesn’t mean that Jesus just showed up one day fully grown…but he was born…and yes we know that…but he also had to go from that newborn baby to that fully grown man…God…who was born…as mindblowing as that is…and God, who would go on to die…as mindblowing as that is…God…had to grow up, just like each one of us.

God had to experience every aspect of life…with all of its ups and downs…with all of its joys and sorrows…and most importantly with every aspect of temptation staring him in the face so that one day, with his death and resurrection he could overcome the power of sin and death on our behalf…once again making relationship between God and humanity a possibility…and it is only because he was both God and human that he is able to bridge this gap.

And so today, we remember that…we recognize that God was born and grew up…and we can ask the question of what was he like as a kid…who was his teacher in the local synagogue…what games did he play? Who were his friends…did he ever have a girlfriend?

And you know what, we can’t answer those questions…but asking them helps us remember that Jesus Christ, God and Human was a real person…and he really grew up…and he had real experiences just as each and every one of us do…and eventually he became the man who would hang on a cross and die…and after three days of being unable to find him…humanity would see him again…and yes, that is all astonishing…and just as Mary pondered on all these things in her heart…we do the same…for once more God has entered into our reality in order to bring about a new transition…one in which God and humanity are in harmony once more…and even more astonishing, is that he invites each one us into this new reality, to live and grow just as Jesus did…and one day…one glorious out there in the unknown future, we will see him face to face. Amen.

Hear It, Believe It 5-18-14

This week’s sermon comes from John 14:1-14. It is an early portion of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to the disciples and includes the famous phrase “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/hear-it-believe-it-5-18-14

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

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

This weekend, I’ve been finding myself a little nostalgic as the 2014 Luther Seminary graduation ceremony is occurring. I’ve been thinking back to my own graduation a year ago…and also looking back even farther than that…remembering fondly the times I spent at Luther…and the people that I’ve met…fellow students, faculty, and staff that come together to form the Luther community.

Now of course, as I think back, some of the names and faces stand out a little more than others…particularly in terms of the faculty. Some professors shaped me more than others due to the amount of interaction that I had through class work with them…and others stand out in my memory simply for who they are, and the almost tangible presence that they bring to the community…which can be felt when they leave. (pause)

Earlier this week, the official announcement was made that David Lose, one of those professors at who left a solid impact on me, will be leaving to become the new president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, one of the other ELCA seminaries scattered around the US.

I wasn’t completely surprised by this announcement, as an earlier press release a few weeks ago named him as the front runner for the position…but yet when I heard the news, I felt a little odd about it. Sad that he would be leaving Luther…and the tiniest bit upset that, even though I’m no longer a student there, that there will be a David Lose shaped hole in the Luther community…in short…the announcement of his future absence left my heart troubled.

And in pondering on that reality this week, I found something in common with the disciples. Today’s gospel lesson is a small portion of Jesus’ farewell discourse to the disciples in John’s gospel. It occurs at the Last Supper and directly precedes Jesus and the disciples heading out to the Garden where he will be arrested. The discourse begins just a few verses before this particular portion…when Jesus announces to them…I am with you only a little while longer. (pause)

I’m guessing that this was one of those moments when you could have heard a pin drop…because Jesus has just dropped a bomb on his closest friends…I know we’ve been together for awhile now…but its coming to a close, because very soon…I’ll be gone…cue the crickets chirping.

I can only imagine what the disciples must have been thinking in their minds and feeling in their hearts at that moment…though it seems that Jesus likely had a pretty good read on the situation…because he opens today’s passage…this particular portion of the farewell discourse with these words…Do not let your hearts be troubled. (pause)

WHAT? How can you say that Jesus? We’ve been following you for three years…and now you’re leaving? Why shouldn’t we be troubled? What are we going to do now? (pause) All valid questions…questions that we would likely share if we found ourselves in their shoes…questions perhaps that we do ask in similar situations…when an important figure in our lives announces their upcoming departure unexpectedly…or in an unexpected death…or the diagnosis of a terminal disease…or any other way that we learn of an important persons permanent absence.

And to top it all off…this is the absence of Jesus Christ that we’re talking about here…and so, when he announces Hey guys I’m taking off…and then follows it up with…but don’t worry about it…don’t let your hearts be troubled…well…understandably, the disciples don’t quite get it.

And that’s nothing new is it? Constantly throughout the gospel accounts we hear the disciples piping up that they just don’t understand what it is that Jesus is trying to tell them…and we see several more instances here. Peter has squawked just before the start of today’s text…good old Thomas the doubter chimes in…and we hear from Phillip…and I image that the rest of the crew were murmuring their concern as well.

But that doesn’t stop Jesus…and he lays some very important things…including…just where it is that he’s off to (pause). In my Father’s house are many dwelling places…If it were not so, would have told you? (pause) Well that’s all well and good Jesus…but why are you telling us? I’m telling you, because I am going to prepare a place for you…You know Dad’s house? It’s a big big house…with lots and lots of rooms…One of them is yours…and I have to leave now…because I have to go and get it ready for you.

Wait a second Jesus…you’re saying that in God’s house, I’ve got a place to stay…there’s a place for me? (pause) You bet there is…but its not ready yet…and unless I take off now…it won’t be…so that’s where I’m going…but rest easy…Yes I’m leaving now…but I’m coming back…and I’m coming back for you…so I that where I am…you’ll be too…so that’s where I’m going. Okay? (pause)

Ummm…okay Lord…but? How do we get there again? We don’t know the way? (pause) Say what you will about Thomas…good old Doubting Thomas…but with this one seemingly foolish question, Thomas cues up Jesus with one of his most famous lines. I am the way…I am the truth…and I am the life. (pause)

Now we hear that line…and we know the history behind it don’t we? We have our own history with it and we bring that prior knowledge to the table…but imagine for a moment that you are hearing this for the first time…and maybe, just maybe for some of you sitting out there today this is the first time you’ve heard it.

I am the way the truth and the life? WHAT? The way to where? That’s what we’re trying to figure out Jesus…and the truth? The truth about what? And what do you mean the life? Aren’t we alive right now? What are you talking about?

All valid questions…questions that seemingly get an answer in Jesus next statement…no one comes to the Father except through me. (pause) And once again…I believe that we hear those words, and the way that we hear them is shaped by our own experience…but imagine that you have no prior experience with these words…or with the teachings of Jesus at all…and you hear that…how does it sound? Joyful? Or maybe judgmental?

In this famous phrase, we find ourselves in the midst of the divisive nature of the Gospel…because for believers…this is full of hope…that through Jesus Christ we see the way to the father…we hear the truth from the father…and we find the life with the father…but for those who have not heard the gospel…they hear exclusion…that there are those who are in and those who are out…and that’s a tough pill to swallow isn’t it?

But it’s the reality in the world today…and whether we realize it or not…even as believers in Christ…we experience doubts…we experience the lack of understanding of just what it is that Jesus is really talking about…just like the disciples express in today’s story…and if anyone should have gotten it, it was these guys…but their example shows us that the human condition leaves us unable to fully grasp the truth of what Jesus proclaims…the truth about the kingdom of heaven…and the truth that through his sacrifice we can be…and in fact are brought back into relationship with the father…we are lost…but through Jesus Christ, God comes to find us where we are.

The disciples may have thought that Jesus was being lost to them…that he was telling them he would be gone forever…but that’s not the case at all. (pause) That reminds me of something that happened a couple years back when we were still living in Minnesota. Emily had taken the kids to the library…but it was not the one we normally went to. As they looked around, Jack got separated…and being in an unfamiliar building…he got a little scared…but fortunately he knew enough to go to the front desk and ask for help.

And so as Emily was in the library…at this point starting to wonder where Jack had gotten off to, she heard an announcement…Would the lost mom come to the front desk…your son is here. (pause) Jack had told the lady behind the desk that “my mom is lost.” I’m guessing that disciples felt the same…Jesus would be lost, but that’s not the case…because Jesus and the Father are coming back…they are coming to where we are…they are not the ones who are lost, but us…and just as Emily was worried about Jack and went to him…God comes to us through Jesus Christ…who brings us to himself so that where he, we may be also.

And the place where he is…is not somewhere specific…it is not a location that we can plug into the gps to find…rather…it is a relationship…a relationship lived with God the Father…life lived with the Father made possible through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son.

This is what Jesus is talking about. I am the life…the life given to you to be in relationship with the father…I am the truth from the father given to you because I am one with the father…and I am the way to come back into relationship with him…and if you’re wondering how that’s possible…how that works…Jesus asks a simple question…Do you know me? Because if you know me…and I say to you that you do know me…then you know my father as well…because we are one.

And now here’s the important thing that might slip under the radar…Jesus tells us to believe it. Quite simply…but he doesn’t just tell us once…he tells us 6 times in this passage to believe it. And when Jesus repeats himself…its intentional…and when he repeats himself this much…you better believe it.

Believe in God…believe in me…Believe that I am in the father and the father is in me…Believe me that I am in the father but if not, believe me because of the works done by the father in me…and when you believe in the works that I have done…then you will do even greater works than these. Believe it.

And that final statement about the works…that’s important too. Jesus isn’t saying Believe that I’m God because I can turn water into wine…or because I heal the sick…rather…the works are the proclamation that through Christ we find the relationship with God.

Christ proclaimed this truth throughout the course of his ministry…but there were limited numbers of people that he could reach…but through the power of the holy spirit…which grants us faith…which gives us the ability to believe that Jesus is God and God is Jesus…we find the ability to proclaim the same gospel to those we encounter…this is the work of the body…this is the work of the church…the work that we share…to proclaim the gospel so that those who have never heard may hear…so that those who do not know, may come to know…so that those who have not seen Jesus may be found by him…and when they are found they too will hear that Jesus has prepared a place in the father’s house for them…because if it were not so…he would not have told you.

Do not let your hearts be troubled…hear it…and believe it. Amen.

Confirmation Question Responses 9-15-13

Last Sunday, I preached on the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. See that posting here.

This was the first Sunday that my confirmation students have been working on sermon notes, and several of them asked questions. I will do my best to field those questions here.

Why would a person leave 99 sheep to find 1 that might be dead?
Excellent question…and that’s exactly the point of Jesus’ parable. You might remember that I said that when Jesus calls something “lost” in this passage, it means destroyed or dead…and so we can assume that the lost is in fact dead.  Now remember that Jesus isn’t trying to be literal here, he’s not actually talking about lost or dead sheep. Rather, he is talking about us. In the book of Romans we hear that the wages of sin is death and since we are all sinful, we know that we are dead in sin. Jesus is the shepherd going in search of the lost (or dead). For us, it is impossible to find something that is destroyed or dead and bring it back, but God is able to accomplish the impossible.

Will God always find us, or will there be times that he won’t?Another great question, and one that I personally struggle with. Unfortunately, there are individuals that never receive the Holy Spirit and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I don’t know why that is, but it does seem to be the case, but it is not God’s intention that there be anyone that is not found. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I wish I could answer the question of why some people are not saved, but I can’t. But the one thing I can cling to is that when we are found by God, nothing can take that away. Romans 8:38-39 tells us “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So once he’s got you…he’s got you for good.

Why does God make us lost if he is just going to leave everything else and look?
Another good one. To start, God does not create us lost…but rather we become lost (dead) due to our sinful nature. Sin has warped God’s creation and caused death. It’s not quite accurate to say that God leaves everything to go searching for us, though admittedly that’s what the parable sounds like. Remember though that it is a parable. It’s a metaphor. What its actually pointing at is that God entered into our reality…the reality where we were lost in sin and death. Jesus (God the son) entered that reality to bring back the lost (us).

Will God always be there for me, even if I do something bad?
You better believe it. This is precisely what the parable is talking about. There is rejoicing in Heaven over every sinner that repents. We all do bad stuff…every single one of us. That’s sin, try as we might, we make mistakes all the time. But God tells us that if we repent…if we confess what we did and are truly sorry, then Jesus washes those sins away. It’s like they never happened. That’s what happens when God finds us.

How does God know where you are?
Great question. Simple answer, God knows everything and he sees everything. But what’s important to note here is that the parable is not talking about being physically lost (like the sheep in the story). Rather, its about being lost (destroyed or dead) in our sinfulness. That’s not a physical place, but its a state of being…like saying its “what” we are, not “where” we are. Jesus (God the son) saves us from what we are…dead in sin.

Thanks for all the great questions from the students. I hope this is helpful in clearing them up for you.

 

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.