Suggested Lectionary Texts
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 , Psalm 14, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-10
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
11 At that time it will be said to these people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– 12 a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.
22 “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” 23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger. 27 For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. 28 Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
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 neighbors, 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 neighbors, 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.”
Are You Ready to be Found?
Have you ever lost something? Be honest! Raise your hand! Now some of you may be in the very organized group where everything has a place, but many of us frequently lose things. For me, the worst thing that I can do is to put something in a safe place. That seems to make it impossible to find whatever is missing. We try to retrace our steps and go back to the last place we knew that we had the item. During this time, everything else comes to a screeching halt. All efforts are devoted to finding this lost item. Interestingly, even if we tell ourselves that we’ll have to take care of it later, all of our thoughts keep going back to that missing thing.
Today we read about the Pharisees grumbling because Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. In response to their complaining, Jesus shares three parables. The first was the lost sheep, the second was the lost coin, and if we continued in this chapter we would read the third parable and the lost son. In each case one was lost and when found a celebration was held with the community. In the case of the sheep and the son, they wandered away, but in the case of the lost coin, it was mislaid.
Community is an integral part of living a life of faith and to “walk” as Christ walks. God told his creations to be fruitful and multiply because we need to support one another with the gifts that each of us bring to the group. Over the years, I have seen and worked within many different groups. When you are in a group full of leaders, great ideas are hatched, but there is no one to do the dirty work or complete the basic tasks, so the group fails. When the group is full of followers, there is no plan generated to complete. Everyone is waiting on someone else to tell them what they should do. So this group also fails.
No man is an island is a quote from a sermon of seventeenth century English author John Donne. Not one of us is self-sufficient and able to meet our total needs. One of the biggest challenges of the early pandemic was the need for all of us to retreat into our own homes and not interact with others. This was very hard for families, but especially hard for those who live alone. We first rediscovered the joy of speaking to one another on the phone which for many had become a lost art with texting. To hear the voice of a loved one is always wonderful, but when we were separated by quarantine hearing that voice was precious.
But speaking to one another wasn’t enough and suddenly we became very creative in ways to interact through electronic platforms like ZOOM because we needed to see others. It’s hard to imagine now, but two years ago ZOOM was new outside of the business world. Necessity urged people who had limited experiences with computers to accept the challenge to learn how to “see” their friends and families. Our need to interact with others was physical, emotional, and spiritual. When you poll others about the challenges of isolation, you receive a variety of responses including missing hugs, smiles, and sharing special occasions while interacting with others. These responses cross the realm of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
In each of these parables, we see someone or something that is lost. As living things, we have this innate need to come home. For the coin, the owner needed the coin so that she could take care of her home. In the case of the lost sheep and the lost coin, neither of these had the ability to find their way home. For those without the ability to find their way, the good shepherd will search for us until we are found. The help we need to return home is sometimes provided by those whose paths intersect with our own paths. What I like to call “God’s Mysterious Ways.”
For the lost son, we need to look inwardly and discern how this parable touches each of our lives. Summarize the Parable of the Lost Son
In verse 11 Jesus continues: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
- Squandered money
- Came to his senses: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
- Father ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.
- For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
- Older brother angry
- “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.’
Unlike the sheep or the coin, the son chose to wander away. God blesses us and challenges us with free will. Because this was his choice, the father did not send out search parties or couriers to track his life. The father is at home patiently waiting, praying that he will, once again, see his son.
God, our Creator, our parent, is patiently waiting for all to return home. Some must go out and test their wings, others are happy to remain at home. Here is an interesting paradox to consider, can you be “lost” while in the safety of your own home. Again, let’s think about those lonely people among us. We do not have to physically leave our home, our church, or our community to be lost. Sometimes we put up walls that we think will protect us, but these protection walls separate us from those who care for us and ultimately from Christ.
Just like the lost sheep or the lost coin, when we are physically lost, the Good Shepherd or those angels among us will find us and bring us home. What about when we are spiritually lost? Jesus is ready for us and waiting to welcome us home. Until we recognize being lost, are we ready to be found? Upon this realization, we must first admit that we are sinners. Next, we must call upon his Holy name, submit ourselves to Christ, and we will be saved. This is the promise of the new covenant. Whether we are “home” or in an unfamiliar place, we must be willing to surrender everything to God. Some surrender willingly, but for others this only happens when we are forced to lose everything.
The epistle lesson from the writings of First Timothy provide guidance for church life. Today’s passage in First Timothy displays a strong belief in the activity of God. “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the foremost” (1:15). What does this mean? Jesus shows us that God cares for sinners: none of us will ever be sin-free, so we are all in need of God’s salvation, which God chose to freely give through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Timothy even states that “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1:14). We read of God’s grace, mercy, love, and peace throughout the Bible, and this gift is to be praised and celebrated together as the body of believers. This morning we sang, “Amazing Grace.” which is a poetic representation of the message contained in this passage in First Timothy. When we accept Christ, those who were lost, now are found. Good News: Whenever we feel lost, God is there to welcome us home. Are you ready to be found?
Our God is an awesome God! Through Christ we are connected to our Creator so that we may receive God’s unconditional grace and love. Thank You, God. (say thank you, God), “thank you, God!” We are sinners, God. (say . . .) We are sinners, God. We love you, God. (say . . .) We love you, God.
Loving God, remind us that we are here because you invite us, seek us, come to us, and embrace us. We are here because as a shepherd seeks a lost sheep, you seek us when we are lost. As a woman searches for a lost coin, you rejoice when we are found. As a father welcomes home his lost son, you unconditionally open your arms and welcome us home. Teach us to give thanks. Amen.
When the lost are found, there is joy!
When hope overcomes despair, there is joy!
When we seek and find God’s faithfulness, there is joy!
My friends, go into the world: knowing that it is God who loves us,
Christ who strengthens us, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us for service.
Go in peace and joy! Amen.