September 16, 2001

Luke 15:1-10

[Jesus continues walking with large crowds.] By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. they growled, "He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends." Their grumbling triggered this story.

"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' Count on it -- there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

"Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it -- that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God."

<The Message >


1. My goodness! Folks of doubtful reputation were once drawn to Jesus. Now so many seem put off by the Body of Christ.

One distinction to be made may be in the categories of new friends and old friends. How would you make the distinction? One way might be to consider that with new friends we are still willing to let them go if the cost is too high. With old friends there is never too high a cost to be present with them.

The poor and them that mourn are more easily let go if they are simply new friends. They can tell that. So I am leery of churches which proclaim they are friendly. My usual response is, methinks they dost protest too much. Moving folks from new friends to old friends is gospel work.

2. What would be important enough in your life that you couldn't help but call up your friends and neighbors and throw them a party? I expect we might start that list with a birth or a job promotion or some other "achievement." Somehow, though, finding the lost shifts categories from achievement to grace.

With any search a grid can be laid out and followed and usually bring favorable results. If this is grace material and not just a search and rescue mission there may be questions to be asked about the lost sheep. Instead of being externalized as a sheep, what would happen if you began to consider which small part of yourself is missing.

The search for self is quite tricky and well worth a celebration with not only friends and neighbors, but strangers and enemies and people of doubtful reputation. To do a search for self is going to require some new or deeper spiritual exercises than we are used to doing. The promise is that the reward for participating in such exercises will be well worth the time and energy expended.

3. I always enjoy the references to Jesus encouraging the use of our imagination -- that wonderful GOD-given gift. In the movement of Jesus, the Christ, imagination plays a big part. In the institutional stasis of the Church imagination is frowned upon. So, let's play a little game to get around the frowners.

How many images of the lost being found can you come up with? How would you do that with a lost file on a hard-drive which ground to a halt one day? How about nutritionally with lost or empty calories? And the historic lost weekend? My hunch is that these contemporary illustrations might bear more fruit than trying to make a moral out of diligent searching.

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