The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “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? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 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. ’ 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.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“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? 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. ’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
You'll probably all know that just by the right side of the church door as you enter is an umbrella stand. It gets a lot of use. But, of course, if we come to church in the rain and it dries up while we worship, it's easy to forget to collect your brolly on the way out. And there are always extra brollies abandoned there. So, if you've been missing one for a while - that's where to look.
But also in that corner is a lost property box - that's usually full of hats and scarves and gloves, as well as bags, keys, glasses, brooches, even the odd hearing aid!
What do we do when we lose something?
Right now, I seem to be missing one of my favourite jackets.
It took me a while to realise it was missing.
I just thought I'd hung it in a different place,or left it in the car/ whatever.
But, after a while, I realised it really was missing.
It wasn't at the bottom of my back pack.
Or languishing in the boot of the car.
So what I've been trying to do is work out when I last had it.
Trying to picture the last time I wore it.
Or the last time I took it with me, just in case it rained.
Isn't that what we do when we lose something.
Once we realise its missing, we try to retrace our steps, work out where we last saw it, when we last used it?
In our gospel reading today, we encounter lost things - a sheep and a coin.
There's no resignation on the part of those who have lost in this reading.
They pull out all the stops to recover what is lost.
However unlikely it might seem that a shepherd can abandon all the other sheep to strike out for the one foolish enough to get lost, or however extreme it might seem to spring clean a house just to find a lost coin - those are the scenarios we are presented with in our gospel.
A lost sheep.
And a lost coin.
What might be the things that we might think about investing some energy in finding today?
What about that joy that was once yours as you met with Gods family in worship, that joy that has been dulled by a sense of duty or by the feeling of being taken for granted.
What about the familiarity you once had with the rhythm of worship - that familiarity that has gradually diminished as you've drifted away, caught up in other things.
What about the excitement you once knew as you listened to and were challenged by the message of the gospel - an excitement that has faded as you've become used to the challenge and the impossibility of the demands.
Or what about the enthusiasm you once had to share the good news, to invite others to join you on this journey of faith - an enthusiasm blunted by rejection or by the quest for an easy life.
What would it take to recover these vital elements of our faith - the joy, the rhythm, the excitement, the enthusiasm?
Perhaps it's like searching for any other lost thing.
It involves us retracing our steps.
Going back to where we were.
Thinking of where and when we last felt joy or rhythm or excitement or enthusiasm in our journey of faith.
Taking ourselves back to rediscover what is important.
And not giving up until we find it.
So, if this morning, your worship is tinged with resignation or regret or sadness or resentment or whatever makes you less than thrilled to be here, how about backing up a little?
How about investing some time and energy into finding that lost mojo, that spark that will inspire and feed you.
The missing element that will enhance your worship and your faith and your life.
The glimmer that promises that, whatever tunnel you are in at present is not beyond God's reach, is not out of God's sight.
It doesn't matter how often we lose sight of God.
God never loses sight of us.
And God rejoices every time any of us manages to retrace our steps and find our way back to the essence of God's love
This gospel story actually makes it seem quite a good thing to lose our way every now and again - just so we can be part of the party that is Gods when we are found.
But in reality, isn't that the story of our journey of faith anyway.
No matter who we are.
No matter the calibre or strength of our faith.
It needs constant attention.
Proclaiming faith is not a once and for all event.
It's an act that bears repeating time and again as we journey through everyday and experience God in new ways, in new places, and, yes, even when it appears that we've lost God.
God's family is not divided into the lost and the righteous, into those who constantly strive for faith and those who think they have found it.
At different points on the journey, our faith takes different forms, sometimes strong, sometimes in need of resuscitation.
But always, God knows where we are.
And what we need.
And leads us always into grace.
Thanks be to God.
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