Saturday, 14 September 2013

Lost Sheep - sermon for 15th September

Luke 15: 1-10

Who can forget that heart lurching moment when you realise you have lost something?

If it is something small an inconsequential, it is just a minor inconvenience; but if it’s valuable, or important, or has a sentimental attachment, then it’s really important.

I remember, many, many years ago in Aberdeen, on a shopping trip – with small boys in tow; Jamie was a baby and in the stroller, and the two older boys were walking between me and their Dad.

I needed to go pick up something or other, so went with the buggy into a shop, while the boys continued on with their Dad. We were to meet up in another store some five minutes or so later. When we met up, George (age 5) was missing; each of us thought he was with the other.

A fraught ten minutes followed, with the shopping centre security team ‘on the case’ he was found, on another level at the opposite end of the mall!! And when he was found I was torn between being so angry with him; and so afraid of what might have been; and so overjoyed that he was ok; he was safe; he wasn’t hurt....

That’s the rub with lost things – often they carry mixed feelings

When we think about these parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin; it can be both comforting – God looks for us when we’re lost. And discomforting – left to our own devices while God seeks out the others....

In our wider church community there is a huge emphasis on mission and outreach. Church attendance, church membership is dwindling at an alarming rate and we are exhorted to discover new ways of being church to attract new people; to share the news of the gospel and to reach out to those who currently have no active relationship with the church.

We are told the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents” (v.10)  -
which is all well and good, but what about us?

How often we think of ourselves as the sheep that did not wander off, as one of the coins that was not lost, and can’t this lead to a certain level of resentment?

Of some slight disgruntlement? And yet, if we think about it, we all find ourselves lost at some point.

Our community: the small village we live in; the church family here that we belong to; the wider Borders area; the whole Church of Scotland... all circles within circle; wheels within wheels. Whichever level of community you consider has its ups and downs; and we all have our days when we feel we are part of it, and others when we do not – when we feel pretty well lost.

On these days, what a blessing and comfort it is to have those parables to remind us of God’s intent: that no one will remain lost for too long!

God’s community is not complete without everyone (sheep and coin) and it is not about the ones left behind, but about God’s desire to bring everyone into community so that it will be complete.

On days when we feel included, in our place, at peace, we do not need to resent that God’s seeking lost souls – that is as it should be. And on days when we feel totally lost; no idea where to go; what to do; how we fit in – we have the reassurance that God is there, seeking us, willing us to turn back, to be found again.

And we, as Christians first, and church members second, have our place, our part to play too. Encouraging those who have strayed away; inviting them back in to the fold, showing them a warm welcome when they are brave enough to cross the threshold.

When we see new people; or well known folks we haven’t seen for a while, it is our task to make them feel wanted, comfortable, at ease so that they will want to stay.

Today’s passage begins with a conversation between Jesus and some Pharisees – they are outraged because Jesus is choosing to spend time with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus in fact actively seeks them out.

He uses the analogy to impress upon these teachers that God wants to seek out everyone – not just an elite list, the chosen few; but everyone and anyone.

The unloved

The unwelcome

The untrustworthy

The criminals and low-lifes

People we would cross the street to avoid... these are the people Jesus met with, ate with, spent time with

And the Pharisees were horrified by it

It was beyond their comprehension that God would choose any but the righteous – sinners were to be left on the outside and utterly abandoned to their fate.

They couldn’t understand that sinners could be forgiven, given a clean start, and a new chance. It seemed utterly absurd.

We listen to those words again: the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents” 

The word repent indicates not just saying sorry or making amends; but turning over a new leaf; a fresh start; a willingness to turn around and change

It is dynamic and active – it is a life changing event to be found by God

Our challenge:

We may be in the fold, but we also have times when we are lost – at those times God seeks us, calls us back

We may also feel disturbed by the different ways the church seeks to invite and renew its connections with the community

God doesn’t fit into any single idea- God is bigger and better and more wondrous than that!

God seeks the lost. Period.

The lost are not always those we would choose; those we like; those we would seek out but that’s ok too!

Because a God that would only seek the people we like would be a very small God indeed... thank goodness, it’s God who does the work, does the choosing – because that’s what causes heaven to rejoice!!

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Julie. You cover much here and tie it all together.