Friday Focus: Lost and Found
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.
"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." - Luke 15:1-10
If you think life can get pretty tough sometimes, think what it would be like if you had to be perfect all the time? No flaws. No flubs. No mulligans. No typos. There is only one person who has ever met that standard. It isn’t you, and it sure ain’t me. At some time in our lives, we all mess-up. Maybe it’s a small misstep. Maybe we get totally off the reservation. The plain fact is we are all sinners: some occasional, some habitual, some petty, some gross. Rather than perfection, our lives are a cycle of falls and resurrections. In our pride, in our frailty… we are lost to sin. In Christ’s love, in his saving grace… we are found and redeemed.
That is why this fifteenth chapter of Luke has been rightly described as the “lost and found department” of the New Testament. In three parables, Jesus tells us over and over: that when we lose our way, God is there to search us out, to find us, to heal us, to lead us home. In fact, Jesus has already done the hard part. He took our sins to the cross. He washed them away in his saving blood. We are purged of sin and born again in Baptism. But life is long and our attention span is short. Like the sheep in this gospel, we may wander away. We may take God for granted. But he never takes us for granted. Til the day we die, he is looking for us and over us. Like the shepherd of this gospel, he pursues us relentlessly. We may despair of our sins and give up on salvation. The Good Shepherd never does. He is with us to the end. In depravity and sacrilege, he constantly calls us home. In repentance and recovery, he joyfully welcomes our return.
In Luke’s gospel, the gold coin doesn’t know it is lost; while the sheep is driven solely by instinct to seek the protection of the herd. Only the prodigal knows the full extent of his loss. He clings to the slimmest hope of some meager accommodation… not forgiveness, not reinstatement, just some paltry pity that will permit him to survive. We know better. We know what to expect. Scripture reveals God’s longing for us, his boundless love, his ready forgiveness.
We have but to turn to him… to turn away from sin… and our lives are transformed completely. We are not a coin to be pocketed or a sheep to be dropped back into the herd. We are foolish prodigals, forgetting just how much God loves us; how much he rejoices in us. And like the prodigal, we are his beloved. In our stupidity and in our sins, he longs for us; he calls to us; he runs to meet us when we turn back to him.
In this gospel we are reminded that we are saved, but our salvation must be continually refreshed and renewed. The world, the flesh and the devil are with us always. But by clinging to Christ, our falls become shorter; our resurrections become higher. We can become misguided; we can stray. But, in Christ, we are never really lost; because in Christ we are forever found.