September 15, 2019
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Pastor SeokCheol Shin
Lost and Found
The Gospel Within the Gospel
How many of you have a habit of losing things, things like a wallet, a key, a credit card, or, a pair of socks or earrings? What did you do when you lost one of those? Did you just say, “Oh well, no problem, I can always get another one?” No, I believe you would search everywhere you had been until you found what you lost. I bet finding the lost is the most important thing in your life at that moment.
God knows what it feels like to lose something. To find the lost, God even sent his only Son Jesus Christ to the world (Jn 3:16). God is always searching for something, not because he can’t remember where he lost it; he knows where it is. He knows who we are, where we are, and what we need. He always finds us and brings us to the fold.
The parables of Luke 15 are called “the Gospel within the Gospel;” they talk about “lost and found!” More correctly, we are lost but found by God! “We are never lost!” This is the Good News for all of us!
Seeking, Finding, and Celebrating
In the first parable, Jesus talked about a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of his sheep strayed away from the flock and became lost. Sheep are silly and simple animals; they always look down as they nibble on grass. Later, the sheep can end up in a place where they become the eaten rather than the eater.
When the shepherd knew one of his sheep was lost, he left the other ninety-nine to find the lost one. During his search, the shepherd might confront deep ravines, hidden corners, steep hills, or even wild animals in the wilderness. But he certainly went through a trial to find the lost sheep. When he found it, he was so excited that he called all of his friends and said, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (v. 6).
We are sometimes like sheep, not necessarily because we are sinners. We get lost even without meaning to get lost. Like the sheep, we probably never look up; we only look down, just chasing after what we need for our daily life…and before we know it, we are lost! We went too far, and we don’t know how to come back.
However, if we are like sheep, we know we will be found, not because we know how to come back but because a shepherd found us. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who always comes and finds us when we are lost.
In the second parable, Jesus talked about a widow who had ten silver coins. When she lost one coin, she didn’t say, “Well, I still have nine others, so I don’t care about the lost one.” In Jesus’ day, one silver coin was worth a day’s wages. That is to say, one coin could feed the whole family for a week. That’s why the widow turned on every light in the house, swept the floor, and searched everywhere until she found it (v. 8).
We get lost just like the coin. The coin in this parable had been in a dark corner. Likewise, life sometimes takes us away into some dark corners. We feel alone and that nobody cares for us. Perhaps some of you have said in the darkest of moments, “I don’t deserve a happy life anymore; I don’t belong here; I am forgotten; No one is looking for me…” At times like that, we might feel home-bound, shut-in, or isolated from all the social connections in our communities.
But in this parable, Jesus tells us that God comes to find the lost. God knows us, God knows our hiding place where we slip into from time to time, God searches for us, and he won’t stop until we are found. In this parable, the woman turned her house upside down to find her lost coin. Why? Although it was a little coin, it was precious to her. Likewise, every one of us in this sanctuary, everyone in this world, is precious to God. All human beings are created by God, which means all are God’s children, so God would turn the world upside down to find the lost, even if it is only one soul in the world.
That’s exactly what God did. Through Jesus God turned the whole world upside down. The God of the universe came among us as a human baby named Jesus. He lived and died as one of us and stretched his arms out to us from the cross to welcome the lost, the least, the losers, and even the sinners. He sacrificed his life for all human beings, whether or not they deserve it. If we truly love this Jesus and want to follow his way, like Jesus, we’d also stretch our arms to welcome anyone to us, even for one lost person.
Reflecting on this parable, I want to remind you that Jesus Christ built his Church as a welcoming community. We should treat everyone as God’s beloved child! We should welcome everyone to God’s house, no matter who they are, what they do, and where they journey in the world. We should celebrate when someone who has been lost is found and joins our church services.
The woman celebrated when she found her lost coin. It’s significant that she didn’t save it but used it for a party with her friends and neighbors. Doesn’t it sound foolish? She tried hard to find one coin and then used it for a party with many others! The party might have cost more than the one silver coin. Is it nonsense, or is it grace?
If we are like the coins which have been lost and found, then we must be thankful that we are God’s precious ones. We must also realize that God wouldn’t just tuck us away in some safe-deposit box. God would say to us, “Let’s have a party now.” If we see ourselves as God’s precious souls, we will be willing to use our time, money, and energy to celebrate our grace with many others.
Dancing with Christ
There are lots of things that happen only in the movies. For example, when one person starts dancing in the street, then suddenly everyone else starts to dance along with him or her. And they know all the steps! With their joyful dancing, the square turns to a festival field and everybody there is united with each other in joy and jubilation. But we know it happens only in the movies.
Likewise, Jesus’ parables in today’s text are not quite logical to human minds. A shepherd leaving 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep and a woman throwing a party after finding a lost coin does not make sense. Does anyone actually do that? It seems unreal like in the movies.
But this unreal-looking-ministry is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus goes a long way just to find one lost soul. When he finds the one, he is delighted to waste his money and have a party with people. Throughout these parables, Jesus is calling us, saying “Is there anyone who wants to go with me just to find the one lost sheep? Is anyone willing to stretch one’s arms to welcome even sinners living around us? Is anyone willing to offer one’s time, talents, money, hands, and heart just to have a party to celebrate our rescue mission?”
If we are truly found in God’s grace, we won’t be reluctant to join Jesus’ dancing in the streets. I am sure that we know all the steps to his dance. It is the step of reaching out to one soul, the step of stretching our arms to welcome anyone, the step of forgiveness and reconciliation with sinners, and the step of dedication for the sake of Christ’s prodigal grace for all in the world. Amen.