Welcome Home #3
There’s an old story about Daniel Boone. It seems, Boone was out doing some exploring with one of his friends. After a week or so, it became apparent that they were in new territory that neither one of them had ever seen. While wandering in this wilderness and trying to find their way, Boone’s companion finally asked, “Dan’l, are you lost?”
To which Daniel Boone replied, “No, but I’ve been a might bewildered for the last three days.” (1)
It’s not fun being lost. These two parables are not just about things being lost and things being found. These two parables are about the rejoicing that takes place when the lost is found.
SCRIPTURE Luke 15:1-11 (NRSV)
 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.
 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
 So he told them this parable:
 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.
 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’
 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Things get lost. Things get found. And we rejoice. The parables in this passage aren’t just about things, either. We only have two of the three parables in Luke 15 today. The third is longer and probably more familiar. It’s the parable of the Prodigal Son. It points to the fact that these parables really aren’t about things that get lost, but about people who get lost; a God who searches for them; and a God who rejoices when they are found.
I. GETTING LOST:
A. We know things get lost now and then, it’s part of life. Maybe it’s inattention or bad memory or whatever, things get lost. And so do we.
We just sort of start going through the motions or we don’t pay attention to the details like we should. There are plenty of good reasons. It might be the load at work. It might be a project that is consuming all of our energy or focus. Things have been going great at home and in our relationship with God and so we put those two things on the back burner. That’s okay for a little while. But ONLY a little while. You see, if you leave those two things, family and faith, on the back burner too long, they have a tendency to spoil.
Back in 1985, a newly retired couple purchased one of the best motor homes they could find. It had cruise control, something they’d never had before but were excited about. As they were traveling up the West Coast, the husband got tired and asked his wife to drive while he took a nap. While she was driving she put the camper on cruise control and it worked perfectly. So, after an hour of straight highway driving she got up to go to the bathroom. Yes, you heard right.
After the accident, she told the Highway Patrol she thought cruise control was the same as automatic pilot. The motor home was totaled, luckily neither partner was hurt. (2)
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when we try to live our lives on cruise control. One day you look up and you’re like Daniel Boone, lost and bewildered.
B. Sometimes its grief that causes us to get lost. We just can’t seem to get past the loss. Maybe you remember Charles Dickens’ book, A Tale of Two Cities. In the book there was a cobbler who was a prisoner in the Bastille. He had lived in a cell for so many years and had become so used to the narrow walls, the darkness, and the monotony, that when he was finally liberated, he went straight home and built, at the center of his home, a cell. On days when the skies were clear and birds were singing, the tap of his cobbler’s hammer could still be heard coming from the dim cell within. (3)
Sometimes grief has a way of imprisoning us and keeping us that way. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be grief over the loss of a loved one. It can be grief over the loss of a job or a promotion or a raise we thought we were going to get. It could even be grief over a decision we made years ago. But whatever it is that is causing the grief, it is holding us prisoner. And we have become like the lost sheep. Lost, alone and separated from the flock.
C. Sometimes it’s not so much us, but our past. We get lost listening to the voices of the past.
It might be the voice of failure telling us that because we failed before, we can’t possibly succeed this time, either.
It might be the voice of disappointment telling us that no matter how good the future looks right now; and no matter what we do, we’re just going to be disappointed again, so why try.
It could be someone else’s voice, the voice of an abusive spouse or an unloving parent. Or the combined voices of a dysfunctional family. We get under stress and we start to play the old tapes and do things in old, maybe unproductive ways. And before we know it we’ve gone down the wrong path and made wrong decisions. Then we look up and find ourselves lost and bewildered.
D. As much as we don’t like to admit it, we fall into that category, too. We don’t like to hear that kind of message because we don’t FEEL lost. We haven’t committed any of the BIG sins like murder or adultery or anything like that. We don’t FEEL like sinners.
In our judgment, lying may not be as horrible as stealing; and stealing may not be as horrible as murder. The actions or hurt may not be as horrible when weighed against each other. But the consequence is always the same. Sin is sin and it always causes alienation and separation from God. One of the prerequisites for being a Christian is admitting that we are sinners who need to be forgiven; and admitting that we are lost and need to be found.
II. THE FINDER:
A. I’m not sure the Lost Sheep ever really knew it was lost until the Shepherd started calling for it. It truly may have thought that the flock was right behind it. They were there the last time the sheep looked.
And while the Sheep made a conscious effort to wander away, the coin is an inanimate object. Someone had to have jiggled the stack or bumped it. Maybe it slipped through a hole in the money purse. Who knows. The woman in the parable went looking for it and couldn’t find it. And then the frantic searching began.
Maybe it was only grocery money. But it could have been her entire life savings. It could have been a dowry she was saving for her daughter. It could be money she was saving for the Temple offering. We don’t know, but it was important and she went searching.
What’s important is that both the sheep and the coin were lost. And that meant someone else had to search for them. As much as we like to use the phrase, I really don’t think we can “Find Ourselves.”
And that’s where the greatest Finder of them all, Jesus, comes in. He, himself, said He wasa sent into the world to find the lost. And that’s the Good News.
B. The Good News is that we have a God who doesn’t forget about the lost. God doesn’t write them off as sinners unworthy of redemption. God’s love is too big for that. We may be unworthy but that’s beside the point because God offers us redemption anyway. Through the love of God and the Sacrifice of Christ we are offered both Forgiveness and Redemption. That’s called Grace. That’s the only thing that commends us to God.
Not only does God offer Redemption but the Good News is that we have a Savior who searches for the lost. He is the Shepherd who leaves the 99 and searches for the one lost sheep. He is the woman with 10 silver coins and lost one. He sweeps and cleans high and low until we’re found. And then all heaven rejoices because we’ve been brought home. Because the Lost has been restored.
C. In the movie “Cheaper By The Dozen?” One of the youngest boys, Mark, is at that awkward age where he doesn’t feel like he fits in, even in his big family. He’s the only one who wears glasses. They tease him and call him Fed Ex. They tell him that the Fed Ex man brought him.
Dad is a Coach whose dream has always been to coach his alma mater. He gets that opportunity about the same time that Mom gets a book published (about the family) and has to go on a book signing tour, leaving Dad to care for 12 kids in a new community in which they didn’t want to move.
Well, in the movie, Mark seems to be the most miserable. And to top it off, his pet frog, Beans, dies and he decides to run away because “big families stink.” The entire family gets into the search.
Dad is the one who finds him on Amtack. He’s headed back to their old home because it’s his one favorite place. Dad find’s him and he’s not lost anymore. Dad embraces him. And after the long trip, guess who’s waiting for him. The entire family. There is reconciliation and laughter and tears. There was Rejoicing. That scene mirrors the reception we receive by God when we come home. It mirrors the reception waiting for us when we are born into life eternal. God welcomes us home. And there will be rejoicing.
III. THE REJOICING:
That’s the way God and the angels in heaven react when any one of us fall away or get lost. Or when any one comes to Christ for the very first time. There is rejoicing. God throws a party in our honor. And we should rejoice with God.
The real problem with the Pharisees was that they didn’t want to be Finders. And any time any church or group of people claiming to be Christian sit and looks down their nose at people who are different or people who aren’t living by our narrow interpretation of the faith, then that’s what we’re doing. We are excluding, we are trying to be the Keepers of the door instead of the Finders of the Flock.
We’re called to be Seekers and Finders. Because, in actuality, there are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who know and have experienced the forgiveness of God and those who haven’t. We’re not called to judge. Instead, we’re called to Seek, Find and Rejoice because someone else has discovered the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ which we’ve experienced.
Like Daniel Boone, we know that sometimes life can get downright bewildering. At times we may even feel lost and alone. But the Good News is that Jesus, the Son of God, the good Shepherd, came with a mission. To set off the rejoicing in heaven by finding the lost.
King Duncan, author and editor of Dynamic Preaching, told a story years ago about an elderly gentleman who was out walking with his young grandson. “How far are we from home?” he asked the boy. The boy answered, “I don’t know, Grandpa.” Grandpa asked, “Well, where are we?” Again the boy answered, “I don’t know.” Then grandpa kind of laughed and said, “Sounds to me like you are lost.” The young boy looked up at his grandpa and said, “Nope, I can’t be lost. I’m with you.” (4)
Really, that is the answer to our lostness, too. Once we discover that we’re lost, Jesus enters our lives and brings us back into the flock. And once we give our life to Christ and know the comfort of God’s presence, we can’t be lost because we’re with Him. The key is to stay with Him. Don’t ever let go of that hand. But if you do, don’t worry, Jesus is in charge of the Lost and Found Department. The Good Shepherd WILL come looking for you. And all of heaven will rejoice when you are found.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. adapted Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series V, Cycle C, (CSS Publishing, Lima, OH, 1997) Proper 19
2. Parables, Etc. (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), May 1985
3. The Pastor’s Story File (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), March 1988.
4. King Duncan, “Lost,” Dynamic Preaching, Sep, 1986, Vol. 1, No. 9
Other References Consulted