Lost and Found
Lost and found.
All of us here in the sanctuary today have our own personal
lost and found stories. You
have yours and I have mine. I
would like to begin the sermon today with two lost and found stories
from my own life.
ďI lost is!!!Ē
I heard her shriek from the bedroom.
I quickly ran in there and discovered that the diamond had
fallen off Janís ring; it was missing.
You know, the big rock, the one I had saved all my money to
buy. She was upset?
I was really upset. She
for sentimental reasons; I
for sentimental and economic reasons.
Carefully, we began looking through the bedding in case the
diamond fell off the ring in the middle of the night.
First the bedspread, ever so carefully.
Then the blanket, ever so carefully.
Then the sheet, ever so carefully.
And finally, after careful searching, there it was.
The lost diamond! And
we were both so very happy. You
know the feeling. Many
of you have lost your precious rings or sentimental pieces of
jewelry. You know the
feeling. You know this story.
And then there are
the lost ďcontactĒ stories.
Many of you know about losing contact lenses, down there on
your knees in the bathroom, with the flashlight, trying to find the
lost contract lens. This
is a lost contact lens story. We
were students at the seminary, which is a vocational school for
pastors. It was BC,
before children, and a group of seminarians were over at our house
for a lawn party. We were out there playing crokay in the grass and Jan popped
a contact lens. Have
you ever lost a contact lens in the grass?
In the grass, carefully pulling back each blade of grass
trying to find that elusive little piece of plastic?
We were down on our hands and knees for a full half hour.
This contact lens was not going to be lost!!! Since we were dirt poor and didnít have insurance, this
contact definitely needed to be found.
Thirty minutes later we found it deep at the bottom of one
blade of grass. Whew!
What a relief! What
a savings! What joy was
found in the Markquart house. Jan
went over to the picnic table and went to put it into her eye; her
eye blinked when it wasnít supposed to blink; and the contact
flipped out into the grass again. O no.
O no. And the
same process started all over again.
It is with this
mood of lost and found, of losing something precious and then
finding it, that we approach the stories of Jesus for today.
He tells two lost and found stories in the Gospel lesson for
today, a story about a lost sheep and another story about a lost
coin. And you can
easily remember the stories from the reading of the Gospel lesson a
minute ago. But you may
not remember the setting, the context of these two parables, but it
is precisely the setting, the context, that gives these two stories
their special twist and
their essential meaning.
So this is the
setting. These two
parables are addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees.
The Scribes and Pharisees were the most religious of people:
they attended church every Friday night; they tithed and were
the big financial supporters of the synagogue;
they didnít eat pork;
they didnít use four letter words when they hit their
thumbs with hammers; they
were always present for Rally Sunday. And, they thought that they were the ďfoundĒ and others
outside the synagogue, outside their church, that these people were
insiders of the church were the found; and the outsiders were the
lost. Now this was a
problem because Jesus was attracted to the so-called outsiders;
Jesus enjoyed the tax collectors, the camel drivers, the donkey
drivers, the tanners, all of whom were outside the church.
These Scribes and
Pharisees came up to Jesus one day, and Jesus, knowing their
attitude towards the outsiders, the lost, told them this story:
There once was a shepherd who had one hundred sheep, but one
got lost, and so the shepherd left the 99 to find the one.
The Pharisees were smiling to themselves because they agreed
with the story; God always goes out to find the lost; that is, those
people outside their church e.g. the tax collectors and tanners and
camel drivers. And
Jesus continued; the shepherd found the lost sheep, and there is
more joy in heaven over one sinner who truly repents than over 99
good people, who donít think they are lost, who donít think that
they have any need for repentance.
Pharisees sensed that this parable was directed at them; but they
werenít sure. So Jesus told them a second parable. There was a old woman who lost a precious coin, not just any
coin, but the most precious
coin that she had. She swept and swept that house ever so carefully,
looking for that lost precious coin.
And the Pharisees smiled with delight, yes, that parable made
sense to them. God is deliberate and careful as God searches for the
precious lost. And Jesus continued. She
found the coin and was so happy, and so it is with God.
There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who truly repents
and over a good person who doesnít know that he or she is lost and
in need of repentance. And
the Pharisees sensed that Jesus was talking about them and they
didnít like the idea that Jesus was implying that they were the
ones who were lost. It
was so clear to the Pharisees that they were part of the found.
So what does this
parable say to us today, some 2000 years later, to your life and
First, our God is a
God who comes after us when we are lost.
Our God is like a shepherd who searches diligently for a
lost, precious, sheep; our God is like an old woman who searches
carefully for her lost precious cost; our God is like a young man
and woman who search intently for their lost precious diamond ring,
symbolic of their love; our God is like a husband and wife slowly
and persistently searching for a lost contact in the grass.
Thatís the way God is.
And every so often, we think that maybe God has given up on
us; that we are do persistently sinful that God has finally given up
on us; that our character defects seem to be so inescapable, that
God finally gives up on trying to get through to us. But this story
tells us clearly of Godís forever wanting to find us.
I love the poem, Hound
of Heaven, by Francis Thompson.
In my memory, it goes like this:
ďI fled from God, down the nights and down the days; I fled
from God, down the arches of the years; I fled from God, down the
labyrinth of my own mind. In
the midst of tears, I hid. Under
running laughter, I hid from God.
Up visted slopes I sped, shot
precipitated over chasmed fears.
... But those strong feet of God came after, ..... with
unhurrying chase and unpeturbed pace; with constant speed and divine instantcy.
.....And a voice, more persistent than the feet, spoke and
said: You are my
precious one. I will
not let you go.Ē Yes,
that is the way God is. So
persistent, so diligent, so untiring in his pursuit of us when we
I need your
imagination. You are
now living in a house adjacent to a large forest.
Your back yard is all fenced in, with the wild back woods
behind your home. There
is a small gate that leads out into the back woods. Evening is rapidly approaching, and you are taking care of
and are solely responsible for your four-year old child or
grandchild who is playing in your back yard. The telephone rings and
you go to answer it inside the house and become engaged in an
intense conversation for longer than you realize.
You come back into the darkened backyard and the gate to the
forest is open and your four-year old child or grandchild is gone.
And what is your reaction?
A breathlessness that is stuck in your throat? And what do you do? Can
you be contained from going out into that woods? No, there is nothing that could hold you back as you run
through the gate and into the woods, shouting your child or
grandchildís name. You are very afraid and your heart is beating
Now, why are you like this?
Why is this your reaction?
We all know why. Because your love for this child is overwhelming; this
child loves you and you love this child.
You talk to this child and this child talks to you. You love this child and this child loves you back.
And this child is much more precious than any material thing
such as a car, a house, a bank account, or any pieced of jewelry
which donít talk to you and donít love you back.
This child is most precious to you, far
more precious than any non-loving possession and you are afraid
that this child could be severely hurt if this child is lost.
And so it is with
God and us. When we wander out through the gate and from the safety of
Godís back yard, God has the same reaction as a loving, parent.
And God comes after us. But why is God this way?
Why does God react this way?
Because, we, as human beings, are also Godís most valuable
possessions, our God who gives love and receives love.
Let me explain. The night before last, I was on the seventh grade retreat and
was sleeping out underneath a tree with a bunch of seventh graders.
The night was clear and the stars were filling the sky, like
diamonds in the darkened night.
They were oh so incredibly beautiful.
And at ll:00 PM, the moon came up over the water, a golden
orb of a moonrise, coloring the sky and its moonbeam filling the
waters of Puget Sound and I watched it off and on as I was
attempting to fall asleep. And
before I knew it, the golden orb of a morning sunrise came up to
the, over the water, and it was a spectacular sunrise, with the glow
spanning the whole horizon of water before me.
And there I was in the middle of this natural beauty.
And in spite of the spectacular beauty of the diamonds in the
sky and the golden orbs of a moonrise and a sunrise, I, in my
sleeping bag on the grass and dirt, was more valuable and precious
to God than these spectacular, glowing jewels of nature.
And why? Because
God and I talk, we give and share love, weíre friends.
.... Or, coming at it another way; why didnít God stop with
Creation on the fifth day, when all the world was so wonderfully
made? Why did God make
human beings on the sixth day and we were called the crown of
creation, more valuable than all the rest? Because we were made for
a relationship with God, a giving and sharing of love, a giving and
sharing of conversation and companionship, and so when you or I
become lost from God, this is deeply upsetting to God. We are much
more precious to God than the inanimate diamonds in the sky and the
non-verbal golden orbs in the horizon. You and I can talk with God;
that is why were made. ...
Put yourself back into that backyard with the fence and the
four-year old who is your precious child or grandchild.
And why are they more precious than jewelry and bank
accounts? And when they
are lost, what is your reaction? The same as Godís when you and I are lost.
But there is more
to this story of Jesus. The
Pharisees thought that they were found when in reality, they were
part of the lost. The
question is: can you
come to church every week, be generous in your offerings, say all
the right prayers, show up for Rally Sunday, and still be lost?
The answer is yes, both then and now.
And this story for today is about us, when we are lost from
Let me have your
imagination again. It
is two days before Christmas, and you are going shopping at either
the Southcenter Mall or Seatac Mall.
You have your choice. Now,
when you drive into the parking lot of the mall two days before
Christmas, it is crowded? Yes. Can you
find a place to park? Maybe,
but not close to the front doors.
So you come into the mall, and is it crowded?
It is wall to wall people; it is a crush.
There is a flurry of activity with the Christmas tree, the
choirs, the Santa Clauses, and all Christmas toys and Christmas
music. You and your
four year old child or grandchild are holding hands as you walk
together through his mass of humanity.
Both of you are looking at this Santa display; you release
hands for a moment; you both momentarily go in different directions;
and suddenly the child/grandchild is out of sight; a mob of people
has come between you. And
the child/grandchild is momentarily lost. You panic and begin moving
in what you feel is the right direction.
Meanwhile, the child/grandchild doesnít know that he or she
is lost yet. The
child/grandchild is cheerfully walking along, enjoying the Christmas
toys, the Christmas Santa, the Christmas decorations.
The child/grandchild has no clue that he or she is lost.
And so it is with us on a number of occasions in life:
we lose our grasp with the hand of God and we go wandering,
totally absorbed in our present life, cheerfully going about our
jobs, our homes, our busy schedules, our church, our thousand and
one events that fill our calendar, and we are not even aware that we
have lost contact with God. It
happens all the time, both to the religious Pharisees of yesteryear
and religious church going folk like you and me today. It is the story of your life and mine, so busy, and so lost
and donít even know it.
for today is not about
the 75% of Washingtonians who donít belong to the church and we
the church are to go out and find the lost sheep.
The lost sheep are the people out there, outside the walls of
the church, and we need to evangelistically go and find them.
Nor is the story for today intended for someone else; you
know, like your son or daughter or brother or sister or mother or
father or work associate. Boy, do I wish that so and so would be in church to hear this
sermon; it would be really good for
them to hear. No,
this story is about you and me when we get lost from God, when we
lose significant contact with God, and donít even realize it, just
as the Pharisees did in Jesusí day. And the story is Godís invitation for us to repent, to turn
around, to come back to God and grab his extended hand to us, and
hold onto God, and talk with God and walk with God and pray with
God, the way we were made to be, to give and take love, to give and
share life. And this gives God such great pleasure and joy, when we
finally come to our senses, wake up, and return to a loving and
living relationship with God. Maybe itís time for you and me to be
Lost my car keys the other day.
My whole key ring. I couldnít find them and I needed them.
I was late for a wedding and I needed to have the keys
immediately. So I
shouted loudly into the house:
ďJan, where did you put my car keys!!! Iíve
looked everywhere!Ē I
didnít know where she
put them this time. She
shouted back, ďDid you look in the ignition?Ē
I went out to the carport, and there they were, hanging in
the ignition of the car. And
I was so happy. The
lost had been found. Amen.