Found

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 32:7-14

I Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 15:1-10

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. On that day the news was filled with images of the airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers and those gargantuan structures holding thousands of people crumbling in an explosion of fire and debris. Those who had loved ones who worked in the towers or worked or lived near the towers were filled with dread as they hoped against hope that their father, mother, sibling, friend, or lover was able to get away in time and escape with their lives. Friends and family frantically called and texted their loved ones. Some were lucky enough to have received a response back.

These are some of the texts from that day from folks who had received news that their loved one was safe or from their loved one letting them know they were OK.

“My dad survived! I got a call from stepmom’s coworker saying my dad is alive, although that is all the info I have. I do not know if he is injured or unscathed.”

“Abroer’s father is alive,” one text proclaims. “survived WTC collapse. I am trying to contact family members to find out more.”

“urgent. It’s tim. I’m okay. Call me at home…i was outside the building when it exploded, but i’m fine.”

“pete is ok. He can’t find his brother who works in the world financial center next to the trade center…..”

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/11/25/september.11.messages/

 

Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. In these stories someone has lost something incredibly important to them. The shepherd has lost one of his sheep and the woman has lost her coin. They search high and low and do not rest until they find what they are looking for and when they find it, they throw a big party to celebrate.

I imagine that the joy God and the rest of heaven feel- the kind that makes them want to spontaneously party- is the same kind of joy felt by those who found their loved ones alive and well on September 11, 2001. They feared the worst, but were surprised and relieved with joy. The beloved child of God was lost but is now found.

But what about those who seem to still be lost? What about those who made phone calls that were never connected or who sent text messages but never received a reply? They did not receive the joy of finding what was lost and it just doesn’t seem fair.

Jesus opens his parable about the lost sheep by asking, “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?” Most of the times I have heard Jesus ask this rhetorical question, I assume that he is lifting up the practice of going after the sheep as common sense. “If you would go after one of your lost sheep, don’t you think God would look for you if you are lost?” he seems to say. This last time reading his words I read them differently. “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?” The answer is no one. No sensible person would risk the lives of 99 sheep in order to find one single sheep. It just isn’t worth it. What if a wolf came by while you were on this fool’s errand and scattered the other 99? What if the 99 grew restless and wandered off and got lost themselves? It would be much more sensible to just cut our losses and leave the sheep and worry about protecting the 99.

But God isn’t sensible like that. God is madly in love with us and will go to any length to find us. God will risk losing everything, even God’s own life or the life of God’s Son to bring us back.

God will always seek the lost and God will always find the lost.

In the next parable Jesus asks “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?” That makes sense. If you lose some money, you’d probably check the house thoroughly for it. But the ending of this parable is where that extravagant, wasteful, and reckless God shows up. This woman finds her coin and then throws a huge party to celebrate finding that coin. Parties aren’t free. You need to pay for the food, the drinks, the streamers, the dj, the party hats, and the party favors. When all is said and done, the woman in this parable likely spent more money than that single coin was worth! When God finds what she is looking for she is so consumed with joy that she can’t help but share it with everyone she can find!

God will always seek the lost and God will always find the lost. When God finds the lost, God’s deep love overflows in joy.

One of my professors in seminary worked as a chaplain at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. In class she told painful and absurd stories. Many of the clergy, on multiple occasions performed committals and prayers over whatever remains they could find even if it was just a limb. More often than not, they were not yet able to identify the body parts to their former owners. It was absolutely non-sensical and very beautiful. The people of God gathered around the lost fragments of body to commend them to the loving care of God. These chaplains could perform this absurd act of love only because they had been given the gift of a bold faith in God’s unconquerable, relentless love for the lost. We know that what is lost to us is never lost to God.

God will always seek the lost and God will always find the lost. When God finds the lost, God’s deep love overflows in joy.

God grants us the faith to believe against all other evidence that no one is lost to God. The sheep who is lost because she has made hurtful, sinful decisions is found by God. The sheep whose life is consumed by addiction is found by God. The sheep whose life is threatened and even killed is found by God. Even though God has 99 other perfectly fine sheep, God does not forget about the one lost sheep and will not rest until he finds the sheep. And when God finds what God is looking for, she celebrates with reckless joy and love like the woman who found her lost coin and then spent it in joyful celebration with her friends. When you are hurting and yearning for our lost loved ones to be found and when we ourselves are lost, boldly believe that in God it is not so. What may be lost to us is never lost to God. God will not rest until all are found.

God will always seek the lost and God will always find the lost. When God finds the lost, God’s deep love overflows in joy.

 

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