Sunday 14 March 2021 Losing, seeking, celebrating Martin Baker
1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
3 So he told them this parable: 4 "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8 "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Losing and searching. Those must be universal stories. Every person in the world would have had that experience. Losing and searching. How many of you have said the words to yourself or to someone else ‘I can’t find it?’
There are three parts in the story Jesus tells. The experience of losing something of value. The effort that goes into searching. And the third part is the community celebration of finding, restoring.
And remember, these stories are told in response to the accusation made to Jesus ‘this fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So remember the scribes and pharisees, the people who had a real concern for upholding and obeying God’s law, the torah, people who Jesus spent a lot of time with, and people who were deeply concerned with those who were lost.
But they don’t see what Jesus is doing. They accuse Jesus of welcoming and eating and drinking with sinners. But they don’t recognise that the very thing they accuse Jesus of, is actually the sign that these people have been found and restored.
Welcoming and eating is the celebration that we hear about in our stories today. Welcoming, eating and celebration is the culmination of losing and finding.
Let’s take a closer look at these parables.
So, you're looking after a hundred sheep in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of threats and danger. One of them goes missing. Do you even notice? What do you say about it? You say words that you can't say in church. Do you leave the 99 there and go looking for the lost sheep until, you find it ?
There are a lot of calculations we would make here. (Let’s see what they are)
In what sort to of danger are the 99 sheep?
How long might it take me to find the sheep that is lost?
What risk will that place me in?
Is it worth it?
So will I do it?
Over a lifetime, apparently, we spend over a year looking for lost or misplaced items.
Wallets, car keys and remote controls are the three things we spend most looking for in our homes.
But I wonder if there is something about us, something that sits at the core of our very human identity. And that thing is all about searching, seeking, looking, hoping to find.
One of the largest companies in the world is called Google. It is a searching machine. It helps people make more than 5 billion searches every day.
Searching has its frustrations and anxieties. But could it be possible that searching is one of the most important things, we will ever do?
Jesus is speaking into something which is such an important part of our lives.
So the question we come back to is, searching for what? What is the purpose of our searching?
This woman loses this money. This hundred and fifty dollars - a day’s wages somewhere in the house. Where is it? Where is it? She turns the lights on. She sweeps the house out searching, searching everything really carefully she finds it. When she finally finds it she calls her friends and neighbours saying lets party, I've found the money I lost. Just so says Jesus, there is joy in the presence of the angles of God over one sinner who repents.
The power of the parables speaks to our universal condition – our universal experience.
We might often say that goodness, kindness, forgiveness, love are all things we give thanks for.
Perhaps though at times our searching expresses all those qualities.
Day after day, almost every day on our news, we see brave people searching. Not for a day’s lost wages or sheep but for human beings in the rubble. Ten years since the Christchurch earthquakes. We recognise the horror of those moments, but we also celebrate that drive for searching that brings us together. In all the terror and loss, we can say we live in a society that still searches. Searches to find and restores. And what celebration there is when one who is lost has been found.
Humanity, people at their best , not when we are accumulating, spending, seeking fame or power.
But when we are seeking, when we are searching for others.
Our scriptures say that at end of searching, the purpose of searching, is restoration.
This farmer goes and finds the lost sheep, carries it on his shoulders and rejoices. He calls everyone together to celebrate the return of the sheep. I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents that over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.
Jesus kept saying, repent or we are all lost.
The interesting thing about this text today, is that it adds this other dimension to repentance.
We make all this effort, grief, guilt, uncertainty. What does God want from us?
But in our story today the lost sheep does just one thing. Allows itself to be carried. Allows itself to be restored.
What might that mean? All the anxiety, all the fear. But to allow ourselves to be found, carried, restored? To allow ourselves to be loved? Nothing we can do to stop God seeking us out, embracing, carrying, restoring. Allow that.
There might be people here today and people in our communities, who wonder whether anybody would bother seeking them out at great cost, restoring them, bring them into a celebrating community.
All of us know something about loss. Lost direction, faith, family, and friends, a lost hope, a lost mobility, a lost youth.
There is a vision and a hope here.
Here this morning. A story central to Jesus’ teaching and ministry. And we hear this story again and again. The lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son. Jesus kept on at this.
Whatever has happened, you don’t need to feel lost or isolated any more. You don’t need to carry the burden of grief or failure or frustration. You don’t need to feel alone in a quiet desperation.
When you walk through your own dark valleys and visit those shadowy places. You are never alone. That there is a restoring, seeking, searching community. A community who believe in a restoring, seeking, searching God.
The Gospel story today is a story of a God, not of order, but a God of recklessness and relentlessness who will go to any ends, do whatever is required to restore the lost and the separated.
I wonder how many of us feel or believe that loss is the story that dominates our lives?
And so maybe that’s why Jesus tells us the story today.
That the end of all loss is the promise of restoration.
I spoke about this parable last week at our Kawakawa Bay service. Ron Paterson reminded me that the parable is also about how we order things. The expectations we have.
Not always doing the easy thing. Or the economic thing. Maybe not even the common-sense thing. Or the usual thing. It may make little sense looking for the lost one, but that is what we do. A seeking and restoring people is who we are. We are the people of this story.
We will be God's people at that point when we do two things.
To believe and trust in a God who seeks our restoration. And the restoration of all people.
And the second thing, is the thing we heard about last week and this week. The abundant banqueting faith, the church today is sharing the bread and wine, we are to be together the community who at it’s core is about celebration. For people who have lost, we are to be that community of restoration.
The relief of seeking and being found,. The joy of restoring something so precious to God that had been lost.
Loss is part of all our lives. But as Christ’s disciples, we find our hope in the promise of restoration, and find our purpose in seeking those who are lost, and being those people together, celebrating our restoration.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.