Posts Tagged ‘Luke 15:1-10’

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.

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.