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"Who's Looking for the Lost?"

Mar.6/16 Luke 15:1-10


"Are you lost?" The woman just up the hall from us asked kindly. "Can I help you find your way?" On Monday, Yvonne and I were deep in the bowels of Victoria Hospital, en route from the London Regional Cancer Programme (section "A") over to the MRI (section "D"). It's a journey we've made many times before. There's a long central hallway, but on the basement level it jogs just at the "C" area elevators. The elevators themselves are placed on an angle, and there are 2 sets, so depending what elevator door opens, it can take a minute to get your bearings once you get off. Thankfully there are signs for the different departments. So, although I probably looked disoriented for a moment, we were able to thank the woman and say we were all right. We knew where we were generally, just had to do an about-turn.

It was a little more distressing Thursday morning. Yvonne asked, "What year was Aiden born?" I went to reach for the 'birthday book', which we always keep in a box behind where I sit at the dining table. But it wasn't there. I searched on the kitchen table; no luck. I looked around our easy chairs in the living room; nothing there. The bulk of the next two hours were spent sorting through the pile of papers, magazines, and books which had been accumulating over the past 3 years at the south end of our living room. Much met its ultimate fate in the recycling box that day; but I could not find the birthday book anywhere. All this time I was mentally fuming because, when there are two of you who live together, and you know for sure YOU did not move the item, that leaves just one possible culprit! Of course, after all the disruption, I had to vacuum after as well. Towards 11 am I sat down again to finally finish my disrupted daily Bible reading. I had to admit defeat (which is tough for a stubborn obsessive-compulsive). As I sat, my eye happened to catch a binding across the room about halfway up a stack which looked suspiciously about the right size for the book in question. Yes it was the birthday book! It seems in my haste to tidy the room for a meeting the previous week, I had grabbed it under various greeting cards and hurriedly put it on another stack out of the way. So I wasn't totally innocent after all. But relieved and pleased to have found the missing item.

Small potatoes, I agree; not the end of the world if such things don't turn up right away. It's different when you are lost yourself. Can you think of a time when you were lost in a strange place? When you're really lost, it can be quite distressing. You feel panicky, helpless, disoriented, vulnerable. And that's just on this earthly plane. What about when you're at a loss in life in general? When you're unsure if there's any eternal significance to your existence? When you doubt if there's anyone out there who really cares whether you live or die?

Jesus understands how lostness makes us feel. In today's reading, He talks about a lost sheep and a lost coin, stories we can relate to in our everyday lives. But these simple stories convey startling truth about eternal matters.


The 3 parables in Luke 15 have a context, a situation that prompted Jesus to tell them in order to make a point. Vv1-2 gives us the context: "Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him.But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."" You can almost feel the contempt and disdain dripping from the Pharisees' and scribes' words, see the sneer - "It's as if Jesus actually ACCEPTS these people...Why would any self-respecting rabbi honour such riff-raff by actually eating with them?"

In Luke 7:34 Jesus acknowledges His inclination to hang out with the "wrong crowd" in terms even more frank: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."'" But those whom the religious leaders frown upon, Jesus elevates by His teaching. Who are the heroes in the first 2 stories He tells? A shepherd, and a woman...Neither of whom in that day were considered eligible to testify in court! By featuring them as the main characters in His stories, Jesus makes divas of the despised. He honours the humble. He raises up women as a class, and elevates the common labourer. Jas 4:6 "But he gives us more grace.That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.""

Let's pause for a quick self-check right here. Whom do you have trouble viewing in a positive light? Whom do you tend to look down your nose at? Who might you or your buddies sneer at? Criminals? Politicians? Aboriginals? Drug users? Those of another race?

Mission To Haiti helps those who inhabit the very poorest country in our hemisphere. Some people might question the value of 3rd-World missions, saying the money is better spent helping our own. But those who have been to Haiti grow to love and respect those who have different skin colour, and may not have much materially - but can teach us more affluent types a thing or two about gratitude for the simple things in life.

1Timothy 1:15 "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the worst." Let's get off our high horse and acknowledge, like Paul, we ourselves are sinners and need Jesus' help just as much as the next person.


"Are YOU lost?" Let's consider some related questions. "Are you missing something?" What would the sheep who'd wandered off be missing? The protection of the shepherd from wild beasts, such as lions and bears. Also the shepherd's guidance, nurture, healing ointments, and care. Sheep are very defenseless creatures, very vulnerable to attack. I'm guessing the lost sheep would be missing its shepherd very much.

The Bible tells us, we ARE that sheep, needing but missing out on the shepherd's care until we return to God. 1Peter 2:25 "For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."


But some people - many in our culture - don't seem to be aware that they're lost. Instead of the lost sheep, perhaps they're more like the lost coin. The sheep likely gets very worried and concerned about being lost, but the coin? It's probably very content wherever it is, over there behind the leg of the chair. Does it feel guilty about being lost? Whose fault is it? Coins don't go wandering away, they get dropped by another entity. In v9 the woman admits SHE lost the coin.

The coin is more like the so-called "happy pagan" in our culture: the person who grew up with no church background, no Biblical moorings, who seems quite happy living for themselves, pursuing an affluent lifestyle, the North American Dream. They don't know they're "lost", nor do they care to have you tell them!

Yet, their "lostness" may still be there under the surface, the nice home, the SUV and toys. The predominant effect of a material worldview is DESPAIR. Humans deep in their psyche KNOW they're "made for something more", they're wired that way, Eccles 3:11 "[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men." Affluent Westerners try to anesthetize the boredom and despair with "stuff" and substances and parties and entertainment and experiences - but none of that truly satisfies the aching corners of our soul. In the words of Augustine, God made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.

For the "happy pagan", the question to determine lostness may not be so much "What are you missing?" so much as, "Who's missing you?" In v4, the shepherd "leaves the 99 in the open country" - that's SIGNIFICANCE, he's staking a lot on this - and "goes after the lost sheep until he finds it" - that's SINGULARITY, literally he "keeps on going after", in a devoted, dogged manner. Whether or not you're missing God (or aware of it), God's pursuing you! Is 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Ezek 34:12 "As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness."

In v8, the woman knows she's lost something that's very valuable to her - a whole 10% of her "stash", her savings, her "rainy day fund"; a drachma-coin was worth a day's wages. These common-person Palestinian houses were often a windowless single room, with a dirt floor; animals slept on the ground, while there were benches for family members to sleep on. So the woman "lights a lamp, sweeps the house" (that's EFFORT) and "searches carefully until she finds it" (that's EARNESTNESS). So Jesus draws a parallel to God diligently pursuing those who may not even be aware or care that they're lost. The "lost coin" is of great value to Him! Titus 3:3-7 "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." From apathy and despair to hope and meaning, because of our Saviour's mercy.


The Pharisees and teachers of the law had a very JAUNDICED view of the 'sinners' who so loved to gather around Jesus; but the dominant note in Jesus' parables is JOY. The shepherd (v5) "JOYFULLY puts [the found sheep] on his shoulders"; v6, "Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'" Likewise the sweeper-woman in v9: "And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'" Five times 'joy' or 'rejoicing' are mentioned in vv5-10. Jesus is hinting, "You oughtta be CELEBRATING not CONDEMNING!"

This has big implications both for the church, and our view of God. The "church" is the "ekklesia", the ones "called together". When we gather, are we more like the Pharisees sniping at the low-lifes and failures, OR are we celebrating with the ones who've found God's grace? Is the note of JOY prominent in our gatherings, our worship, our times of table fellowship? The apostle Paul admitted how much joy the church at Thessalonica gave him: 1Thess 3:9 "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?"

He calls / she calls friends and neighbours together and says, "REJOICE with me!" (Vv6,9)

Also there's a real challenge here to those of us who have imported into Christianity pagan notions of God - whether the fiery darts of Zeus and Thor, or the passionless coldness of the Stoics and Buddha. Jesus tells us in v7 there is JOY in heaven over one sinner who repents; and v10, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Remember Jewish deference in aiming to speak indirectly about God, as a sign of reverence. Who would be "in the presence of the angels of God"? Why, God Himself! Jesus is implying God the Father Himself rejoices over one sinner who repents. God is Personal, not impassive; rejoicing, not indifferent. Calling for a party, rather than some unmoved uncaring Stone-face. YOU MATTER TO GOD! When we repent and come home spiritually to Him, it gives Him great joy.

Ezekiel 33:11 "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!..." Isaiah 46:3-4 (note the personal, close-up contact here) "Listen to me, ...you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." Let's pray.