Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke is known as the Lost chapter. There are 3 parables about something or someone that has been lost and someone searches out the lost. The chapter begins as this 3rd section of Luke does with a conversation followed by a teaching.
Jesus is speaking with tax collectors and sinners. They had come to hear him. The Pharisees and scribes were miffed because Jesus was welcoming of the sinners, even eating with them. Sometimes, we might think of these sinners as maybe benign. But, my sources tell me these were bad dudes that would probably be more than a menace to society. You wouldn’t want to spend time with these guys for your own safety (Working Preacher I Love to Tell The Story Podcast). Perhaps these are the type of guys who break your knee caps for missing your tax payments. The Pharisees and scribes had good reason to be concerned about Jesus hanging out with these guys. Jesus hears the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes and has 3 parables for them to teach them about why he is welcoming of sinners.
First, Jesus tells them the Parable of the Lost Sheep, saying, “which one of you, if you’d lost one of 100 sheep, wouldn’t leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after that one lost sheep until its found? When the shepherd has found that one lost sheep, he lays the sheep across his shoulders and rejoices. He goes home and calls together all his friends and neighbors for a celebration. He asks his friends to rejoice with him that his lost sheep has been found.” Jesus says that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Second, Jesus tells them the Parable of the Lost Coin, saying “a woman has 10 silver coins, but she’s lost one, she lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and searches carefully until she finds it. When she’s found it, she calls her friends and neighbors to come rejoice with her for she has found the coin she had lost.” Jesus says “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
These stories are ridiculous. If a shepherd or anyone familiar with shepherding heard this parable, they would think it was ridiculous for a shepherd to leave 99 sheep alone in the wilderness to go in search of one lost sheep. No shepherd would do that. Then, to throw a party for having found one lost sheep. Ridiculous!
And, the woman with the lost coin. She didn’t have her money in the bank. She couldn’t use her debit card at the market. She kept her coins probably in a pouch or hidden under a cup. These 10 silver coins may have been her grocery money for the week. When she lost one of those coins and knew there wouldn’t be enough to put food on the table for her family, she frantically searched the house, turned the house upside down looking for that coin. And, when she found it, she threw a party. Everyone knows you don’t throw a party with your grocery money. Ridiculous!
Finally, Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus tells the story of a man that had 2 sons. The younger son took his inheritance early and went off to sow his oats. He blew his inheritance on wild living. When he had nothing left, he hired himself out to feed pigs. He was starving and thinking these pigs were eating better than he was. He figured even the slaves in his father’s house ate better than he was eating. He decided to go home. The son goes to his father and his father runs out to greet him. The son says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The Father welcomes him back with open arms throwing a party complete with a feast of the fatted calf to rejoice that the son he had lost had come home.
When we hear these stories, we have often thought about lost sinners being unbelievers, people who’ve lost their way, people who live hard lives, people caught up in drugs, addiction, or adultery. We would never think of ourselves as lost sinners, even if we remember that we are sinners; we don’t think of ourselves as the type of sinners that are so lost we’re in need of repentance.
Let’s think for a minute though, what it means to be lost to God. Maybe there is more to being lost that making the bad choices we assume are associated with being lost and being a sinner in need of repentance. Perhaps we can reflect on our lost-ness. What are the times in your life that you’ve felt lost.
– Feeling lost after the loss of a loved one, a child, a baby, a spouse, a parent,
– Feeling lost in a dead-end job,
– Feeling lost as we’ve lost ourselves to the title of our job,
– Feeling lost in your marriage after you lost the romance,
– Feeling lost as we’ve gotten so wrapped up in our kids’ lives we’ve lost our sense of self,
– Feeling lost after retirement without a job to go to and little sense of purpose,
– Feeling lost in school trying so hard to be perfect and fit in, or
– Maybe even, feeling lost because your faith has waned to doubt. (David Lose, http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=2737)
I saw the movie The Shack this week. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll recommend you see it or read the book. I’ll try not to spoil it for you this morning. The main character Mack is feeling lost after suffering a great loss. This loss has brought about what he calls The Great Sadness – it has affected his whole family. Mack has an experience with God that helps him heal which is the main plot of the story. Mack is lost and needs redeemed from his sadness, his lost-ness.
He’s lost and in need of redemption.
God who is called Papa in the movie tells Mack, “when all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me.”
When we are feeling lost, we often lose sight of God questioning where He is, what He’s doing to fix it and why He didn’t prevent it. We lose sight of the God we know to be loving, gracious and compassionate. We are so wrapped up in our pain that we are unable to be embraced by the welcoming arms of God.
After Mack has spent some time with Papa, Jesus and Spirit, he begins to understand who God is, how God works and where God is. Mack asks God, “After all I’ve done, why’d you keep working on me?” Papa says, “Because, that’s how love works.”
When we are lost, questioning God about His work, our purpose, our sin, our suffering, we think we are searching for God, but…God is already there. We’ve simply lost our perspective. What we’re really searching for is ourselves. We need to rediscover ourselves in relation to God in light of our suffering because God is always there, He hasn’t been lost and He hasn’t left us. (Ibid).
If we are the lost and God is seeking us, we are the sinner in need of repentance, not because we’ve necessarily done anything wrong. We need the redemption of our Savior to bring us back to God. Our Savior will help restore our relationship with God giving us new perspective, new purpose, new direction, new life and renewed faith.
Then, there will be rejoicing. All these stories about the lost include a great rejoicing. They are ridiculous stories of seeking the lost and rejoicing when the lost have been found. There are great parties with friends, neighbors and fatted calves. There is joy in heaven for what was lost has been found. David Ewart wrote, “There may indeed be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, but the parables are more about the joy to be had on earth from hearing the Good News of the extravagant God who risks all to search for each one of us personally, individually, joyfully.” (http://www.holytextures.com/2013/09/luke-15-1-10-year-c-pentecost-september-11-september-17-proper-19-ordinary-24-sermon.html) The Good News of the Lost Parables is that we belong to a God who seeks us out when we are lost, redeems us through a Sacrificial Savior, and throws ridiculously extravagant parties when we are found. We belong to a God that rejoices when He is able to offer us grace. And, isn’t grace, His unmerited favor, isn’t grace ridiculous?