Lost and Rescued - Sermon on Luke 15:1-10

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We cry when we lose things. We are joyful when we discover things we'd lost. God cries when God loses us. God is super joyful when we are found.

 This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

September 11 - 17th Sunday after Pentecost

"Lost and Rescued".  Text is from Luke 15-1-10

Click here for sermon audio  



Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

Jesus is offering us a parable which is kind of a double parable, essentially outlining the same thing in both parts. 

It is a classic response to complaining Pharisees about the invitation Jesus had extended to tax collectors and sinners (and I love how Luke described it, as if tax collector was a different category of sin unto itself). Luke allows us to remember that tax collectors were not simply sinners but people...Jewish people who collaborated with the Roman authorities. They grumble as they always do about the way Jesus conducts himself. Imagine this holy messiah who they've been told that Jesus is, and Jesus has done nothing to dissuade that belief, but rather than hang out with the important Jewish folk like the priests and Levites, kings and other synagogue leaders, Jesus surrounds himself with the likes of these. 

The first involves a lost sheep, one of one hundred sheep that the shepherd is caring for, but this one is the one that is important. It matters not which sheep it was. There is no one sheep that is more special than the other ninety-nine, it is the fact that this one is missing that makes it unique. And the joy that the shepherd feels upon its recovery is like nothing else, carrying it on his back and celebrating with his friends that the lost sheep has been found.

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Jesus interjects the two parables with a brief saying, about the joy that is in heaven over the lost soul and how its having been found is much greater than those of the ninety-nine who are lost. Again, Jesus is not telling us that there is no joy over any of the other righteous individuals, because surely there is yet joy for them as well.

Then the woman who has lost her tenth coin, who has frantically torn her house apart in hopes of finding it, apparently drawing the notice of her neighbors and friends and enlisting their help. When she suddenly does find it the woman is so filled with joy and happiness that she calls the neighbors over to celebrate that the lost coin is once again in her possession. 

With both parables the focus is not on the object lost. Indeed, the lost sheep and the lost coin, which can be likened to a lost soul, can be unrepentant for all concerned. The focus is on the one who lost each of them. The shepherd and the woman, who rather than be concerned with what they have, because they know that the stable objects are in fact not going anywhere, but the missing. The shepherd feels love for the missing sheep. The woman, who is nevertheless doing okay with nine coins and is not at all suffering, still yearns for the tenth one with greed. Let us not make too much of that greed, unless to say that God is greedy for each and every one of his souls, the faithful and the lost.

It is in the losing that things are more precious and in the finding of those lost things that we are given great joy. 

This morning we find ourselves at the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that shocked the world and changed everything in our country from that moment forward. It was one of those pivotal moments where any one of us, at least those of us over the age of 20 can readily say what we were doing when those towers fell. And many people, even today, still find themselves searching for answers as to what was behind the attacks or what sort of evil could have been ultimately underlying the attacks. On this Sunday we also focus on the ELCA day of service, "God's work. Our Hands" and we remember those people who worked hard to save lives on September 11, who put themselves in harm's way, many at the cost of their own lives, and those who continue to do so today to help others. 

First responders are always seeking out people who are lost, who are in need, and hurting, and many of the rest of us are often looking for answers with the same kind of urgency, about why evil things take place in the world and how we can find forgiveness when tragedy strikes. We look for how we can go one after the death of someone who has close to us has died. I think one of the biggest thing that we search for is how to find peace between nations, or even the desperate, elusive peace that cannot be found between political factions. 

Even those of us who are well steeped in our faith, those of us who are confident in the promise of God to us for life everlasting, can find ourselves at those times when we are desperate and searching for answers lost and aimless. While we may believe ourselves during ordinary moments among the nine coins or the ninety-nine sheep, we can easily at the hardest and most critical moments of our lives, when we are most in need of rescuing and being found. And like the tireless work of those firefighters and police on September 11, 2001, and the efforts of care in those first responders today, the unequalled dedication God has in seeing our journey to its end and seeing us back in his cradle and mercy will not stop until God has gathered up all God's children together. 

We, sisters and brothers, are ourselves called to the work of looking for the lost, and having engaged in that work we understand that much more about how God works in the world. It is in God's promise of baptism that we find God's everlasting grace that empowers us to do God's work in the world. And just as with Moses and the people of Israel, and just as with Paul as he wrote in his letter to Timothy, we need not look very far to find the times that God has made a blessed us and given us a bright hope for a future and a promise of salvation. Sinners that we are, made into saints by his faithful word. 

The good news, my sisters and brothers is that the work that we do with our hands, imperfect that they be, empowered by God's holy spirit are made over into God's work of justice, peace and mercy. God does the hard lifting, looking for us, God's lost souls and claiming us as his holy people. When we fail to find what it is that we are seeking or find what we cannot ourselves handle, it is God, who in the promise made to us on our baptism, that has found us and rescues us for his kingdom, a salvation that lasts in a world without end.

Amen.

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on September 11, 2016 4:15 PM.

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Holy Cross Day - Homily on 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 is the next entry in this blog.

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