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Lost and Found

Luke 15:1-10

The Rev. Jon Roberts

12 September

2010

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which 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 coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

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The Lord is my Shepherd, Morgan Weistling, c.2000

This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.[1]

Along the path of life thoughts and feelings abound; lamenting the times when we were lost and rejoicing in the moments we were found. Everyone has been lost before. You join the ranks of some of the greats when going there. Columbus who sailed the ocean blue. The team of astronauts who later landed safely in it, safe and true. Whether you follow the stars or travel amongst them, it is a mixed feeling of grief, despair, and joy.

There are two important distinctions to the unpleasantness. There is getting lost and there is being lost. One is in sure denial and the other in worthy admission. Somewhere inside each of us there is a compass telling us when we are pointing north. Somewhere inside each of us there is a GPS, telling us when we are to turn right. It seems unlikely nowadays that anyone can get lost given our modern-day toys. Those little handheld gadgets that can pull up a map giving us step by step instructions on how to find that restaurant or get to a friend's house for the first time. They are great if nothing changes, if there are no accidents leading to a detour if the road is not under construction, or worse, renamed. Exit 260 is no longer. It is now called exit 45A. Instead of an intersection with stoplights, it is now a roundabout.

How does one navigate around the changes in life? Of course, our path, our life is more complicated than a journey by sea, by land or even by stars. We'll need more than a GPS to guide us. Everyone has been lost because everyone follows a map that doesn't compensate for change. It's always centered on what one believes to know. For Columbus, he had a map that centered on the Mediterranean, but there was nothing charted beyond the Atlantic. For the members of a space shuttle, they follow coordinates based on the axis of the Earth. A map does not compensate for storms at sea or explosions to our hull. It is during the times when things to do not go according to plan when we live by denial in either getting lost or by admission when we are lost. We must rely on something that is more sure, more worthy in times such as these.
What is it and where can I find it to get back on track? We feel the tenor of one being lost and in need of guidance in the epistle that St. Paul writes to his student Timothy. Remember, Paul had been traveling on his missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean and was planting churches. He moved around from places like Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica, and so on, making disciples. Young Timothy was one such student devoted to teaching and instruct but he was finding it difficult to see his influence. Paul steadies him and gives him a saying, sure and worthy of full acceptance. He tells Timothy to tell the people, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." "Sinners", Timothy exclaims to all, but we cannot go around telling people they are sinners, can we? That's like kicking them when they are down. Many are jobless, marriages have failed, and their children are getting into trouble. It is hard to get men to be involved. They're always too busy. Teaching this church about sin wouldn't be a good idea, if that is how we anticipate more people to join us, is it?

The church of today is no different than Timothy's church. No one wants to talk about sin anymore. But sin is precisely what is separating us from the love of God. Sin, for many, is either something they surely deny or something they worthily admit and say they can't do anything about it. If one does not admit they are lost. If they don't pull to the side to ask directions, then they will certainly not believe they need to be saved. They will keep on going down their path where thoughts and feelings abound not knowing they are lost, not caring if they are found.

Ask anyone who has been stranded at sea, anyone stuck on the side of the highway, and they will tell you the one thing they needed was help. They know they are lost. Do they throw up their hands in despair with no hope or do they try to hail someone to assist? When people wanted to be found, they turned to Jesus and this is what they said about him: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”[2] Have you taken a wrong turn? Did the road change names? Does your GPS not work? Everyone has been lost before, but if you do not turn to Christ, no one can truly be found.

[1] 1 Timothy 1:15
[2] Luke 15:1-10

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