Luke 15:1-10, "Rejoice with me for I have found the coin that was lost!"
There are moments in our lives where we realize that we are in a totally different world, a place that we have never been before, where we don’t exactly know the rules, or we feel like the rules have changed somehow. Have you ever felt that kind of lost-ness?
I have been struck by the rememberences of September 11th this week. For certain, September 11th of 2001 was that kind of event for all of us. And many of us just walked around feeling lost
Events like that happen in our lives, things that sometimes are within our control, oftentimes situations that seem totally out of control. But we can feel lost too when something good happens in our lives, new beginnings, fresh starts.
When some of you started school this time around, you may have felt a bit lost with new classes, new rooms; I know some of the workers in the school must feel that when there’s a whole new class full of students that you now get to learn how to work with, to help, and to teach.
I also remember acutely the feeling of being lost when our two children arrived, one by birth and then the trip to China for our daughter five weeks later. It was most certainly a time for new beginnings and moments where we felt lost, just struggling to find our way.
In particular I remember losing hours and hours of time . . . just when you have gotten one of them busy with something and the other lets you know that now that it is their turn. The next thing you know, hours have passed. For my wife and I there was definitely lost sleep, lost sleep you never quite feel like you ever catch up on. And maybe first and foremost is just that feeling that we were in some uncharted waters, uncharted for us at least.
It is that wonderful and scary feeling that we’ve never done this before. And every once in a while you feel like you've gotten in over your head just a tad bit in those uncharted waters . . . every once in a while.
And even though I’ve been describing what it feels like to be lost, in our passage this morning, Jesus isn’t doing that; he isn’t describing what it is like to be lost.
For sure he is describing two things that have been lost, a lost sheep, one out of one hundred, and a lost coin, a coin that was one out of ten. But instead of telling the story from the view of the sheep or the coin, Jesus is trying to get the folks of that day . . . and ours . . . to understand what God’s love and grace are like. And he’s telling the story from the perspective, from the view of the one who is looking for what has been lost, not the one who has been found, but the one who is searching.
And the story that Jesus tells is of a God who does not want to lose even one. This is a God who wants everyone to know love, to know salvation, to be a part of this wonderful kingdom. And when Jesus describes that love, it is the kind of love that is willing to leave 99 to find that one.
It is the kind of love that lights a lamp as that widow did, that looks in every nook and cranny, every dusty corner where that coin may have rolled, or fallen, or been dropped. That coin has no idea how it got there. But there it finds itself . . . and when that widow looks and looks, lighting the lamp, sweeping every corner, after searching diligently . . . she finds that coin . . . and oh how she rejoices. She calls her friends telling them how she has found what had been lost; and they all celebrate, sharing the joy that comes when what was lost has now been found.
I found something this week that I had forgotten that I had lost. I didn’t make any kind of frenzied search for it, it was as if it just showed up, an old voice with a guitar. It was an old song that I used to listen to when I was a teenager.
Most of you know that songs can weave their way into the fabric of our lives, the way you remember the songs from that summer when you had your first girlfriend or boyfriend, or just the way that a song just sounded as if it had been written for you, to you, about you. So I was listening to this old song by a folk singer named Michelle Shocked. She grew up in East Texas and sings a song about learning to drive on those East Texas backroads, about difficult turns and curves, about the detour you would have to take through the Lindsey’s pasture if the waters became deep around Kelsey Creek.
These are names of places where she grew up, but they remind me about learning to drive when I was young, about driving down Blackshear’s Ferry Road, the Perry Dairy Road, and all of those little cuts and turns. It also made me think about times when it seems like I have had to take detours, or have somehow found a way when there didn’t look like there would be a way, those times that the road looks like it is about to end, but then there’s a break in the trees and everything just opens up again . . . and you see where you should go.
I found this song again, or maybe the song found me, or maybe God found me, telling me that everything was going to be alright, that this is the kind of God who finds us. It's funny, but I remember listening to this song a lot when my son and daughter came to us.
And for me, hearing those old songs is like being found again. And I say that because sometimes ways just seem to open up to us, we begin to see a little light around the corner, we feel someone gently tugging at our sleeve, and it is because . . . we are being found again.
It is because somewhere along that old dirt road, we have lost our way, we have found ourselves somewhere we may not have ever thought we would be, whatever kind of lost-ness it is, there we are. And maybe to us it just looks like something fortunate finally happened when we see that break in the trees, but I have to believe, I know in my heart that those words that we hear are God calling us home, that those hands reaching down to help us up when we have fallen, even though they may take the form of the hands of our friends, family and neighbors, those are God’s hands reaching down and picking us up when we have fallen.
God has again shown the kind of love that leaves everything else behind, that even though there may be 99 other sheep, 9 other coins, that one is important; we are important to God. And as the people of God, we too must remember that everyone is important to God.
And even though we often find ourselves so many times identifying with the lost, and God knows that we all have been lost at one point or another, Jesus asks us to understand the love of God, an abundant kind of love that finds us when we are lost, picks us up when we have fallen, no matter what the cost.
We must understand that love for ourselves, but also understand how to share that love with others. You see that is what Jesus was trying to get these Pharisees and scribes, the good, pious, religious folks of that day, the ones who did everything right, this is what Jesus was trying to get them to understand.
God is the kind of God who doesn’t care how you got lost, but will give everything so that you can be found. Sheep are not smart animals and just tend to wander off at this or that. A coin has no mind of its own. God doesn’t really care how they got there, but is overjoyed that they are found. It is the searching and finding that matters. These Pharisees and scribes were happy to point out how the tax collectors and sinners were wrong.
But Jesus describes a God who is not focused on how you got lost in the first place, about where things might have gone wrong, about which wrong turn someone might have taken or what they have done or been. God just wants you to be found.
Remembering back to three years ago now, there were places where my wife and I absolutely felt lost, the places where we are working to get into a schedule, to understand how to best love these two children who have come to us, even in the midst of all of that, God was finding us, even if it meant sending an old song to remind you of the turns you have taken before, and about how God will be there again. Eventually things will settle down and we’ll get some sleep, someday.
Michelle Shocked writes another song about being awake early in the morning and somehow knowing what time it is. The song goes through a list of ways that did not tell her what time it was. It wasn’t because of her digital watch because she didn’t own one. It wasn’t because of the traveler’s clock, because it had wound down a long time ago. And it wasn’t because of the radio, because the batteries are low.
She knew that it was five AM because she heard the five strokes of a church bell ringing. In the soft quiet of the early morning, that is what she heard.
God calls us all and is finding us all. That is the nature of God.
And as the people of God, it is up to us to find others to share with them God’s salvation and God’s grace and God’s love.
May we be the people of God in this place and in this community and in this world.