12th Sunday after Pentecost August 28, 2022
2 Kings 5:1-15
WS #770, 495, 496, WS #772
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, in Your kindness You cause the light of the Gospel to shine among us. By the working of Your Holy Spirit, help us to share the good news of Your salvation that all who hear it may rejoice in the gift of Your unending love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (NIV)
Why do they always get lost? And where do they go? How can they be so good at hiding? What am I talking about? I’m talking about lost socks, of course. There are different theories. Some say the dryer eats them. Others believe mean little gremlins steal them just to irritate us. Others think they runaway to “Sockland.” After all, a life of covering dirty, smelly feet isn’t much of a life.
While lost socks remain one of the great mysteries of life, the fact remains that lots of things get lost. Car keys, wallets, the TV remote, you name it, it seems something always turns up missing.
In our text Jesus speaks of a lost coin, and a lost sheep. But, of course, what he’s really talking about is people. If we look carefully, we discover you and I are that coin and that sheep, once lost, now found; and if we take the time to notice the world around us, we see there are many, many souls who have yet to be found. On this Mission Festival Sunday we focus on the theme: I ONCE WAS LOST, BUT NOW AM FOUND!…SO NOW WHAT?
First of all, who are the lost? What does a lost person look like? Does he look like the person living in a run down house with beer bottles scattered over the front lawn? Or the woman who routinely frequents the corner pick-up bar? Or the man who ends up at DejaVu every Saturday night?
Yes, many of these would fit the description of “the Lost.”
Where do you go to find “the Lost”? To a primitive village in East Africa? To the remote foothills of the Himalayan mountains? To the other side of the river in some impoverished east-side neighborhood?
I’m sure you’d find many lost souls in places like those.
But might we also find them in a finely furnished office, wearing a three-piece suit or a $500.00 dress? Could a lost soul look like the leader of the cheer squad, or the captain of the football team? Might we find “the Lost“ in a middle class neighborhood with neatly trimmed hedges, manicured lawns, and a mini-van in every driveway?
Yes, we would even find “the Lost“ among those who appear to have everything going right in life.
A lost person might even look like your husband or wife, son or daughter, brother or sister. If we could look into hearts, we could even find them sitting in a church pew every Sunday, nodding their heads at everything the pastor says from the pulpit, but, nevertheless, still very much lost.
In fact, “the Lost“ don’t look any different from you or me. For no matter a person’s ethnic background, social or economic status, or place of residence, we all have something very much in common. We all came into this world lost from God. “All have sinned,” we read in Romans, “and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
The lost coin in the second of our parables is a picture of you and me and all people, and it reminds us of Paul’s words in Ephesians, “ But as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) Yes, we are all creatures of God. We can walk and talk, taste and smell, think and feel. We are a race capable of amazing things. We can compose beautiful music, invent computers, and walk on the moon. But, in relation to God, we are all fallen, ruined, helpless to save ourselves from a well-deserved eternal destruction. We are like a dirty coin that’s rolled underneath the refrigerator, altogether powerless to find its own way back into the hand of its owner.
The other parable is about a lost sheep. They get lost because they’re often clueless and stubborn. They do not always realize their safety depends on sticking close to the shepherd. They see a few blades of grass here and a fresh green plant there and wander off toward a cliff or into wild country where there are predators ready to rip them apart and kill them.
In this parable, too, Jesus describes us perfectly. How foolish we are to think we could be happy and our life full if only we had lots of things in our house, a BMW in our driveway, and the hottest chick or most gorgeous hunk by our side. All the while we are walking toward the cliff that will plunge us into eternal ruin, wandering into the territory of the Predator who would devour our souls. We foolishly think we can be content and safe without the Shepherd to take care of us.
But, of course, today I’m addressing people who are no longer lost, people who can rejoice from the heart: I once was lost but now am found!
Secondly, who are “the found”? What does a person who has been FOUND by God look like? Well, she might look like the person who used to get falling-down-drunk at the bar every Friday night, her mind once dizzy from the effects of the bottle, but now filled with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit. Or we might find him on the east side of town, still very poor but now rich in the grace of His Savior, Jesus. We might find him residing in a two-story mansion, looking to his wealth no longer as a source of happiness, but as a blessing from God to be used in the service of the Gospel.
What does a person who has been found look like? He looks like you and me. In the Shepherd’s search over rough country, in the persistent search of the lost, we see God’s loving determination to find us. The eternal God that designed and brought into being all the vast galaxies was determined to find his helpless, lost, little creature. He chose you and me to be His own before time began, and in time He did not stop looking and calling until he found us. Let it be emphasized that our Shepherd-Savior found us. We did not find Him. We weren’t even looking for Him. We didn’t even want Him to find us. The Bible makes that crystal clear when it says: “The sinful mind is hostile to God …” (Romans 8:7)
That is why we teach our children to confess from the catechism: “ He has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature”, and “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to come …”
You’re familiar with the marketing campaign that shows a celebrity wearing a milk mustache, with the caption “Got Milk?” Ever see the t-shirt that says “Got Jesus?” It would be more accurate to say, “Jesus Got Me!”
Only because Jesus got me can I know the peace which comes from sins forgiven and guilt removed by His holy, precious blood. Only because Jesus got me can I know that true purpose in life means serving, not my own sinful interests, but serving Him Who Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified me. Only because Jesus got me can I look forward with joy unspeakable to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
What a joy it is to be found! When I was six years old, I got lost in a huge department store. I must have wandered into the toy aisle, and, when I looked around, Mom and Dad were nowhere in sight. It took, what seemed like hours, before I felt my Mother’s warm embrace, as she dried my frightened tears from my eyes. That memory will be stamped upon my mind forever—the memory of how wonderful it is to be found.
Dear beloved of Christ, we have reason to rejoice every day. “I ONCE WAS HOPELESSLY LOST AND ON THE SUPER HIGHWAY TO HELL, BUT NOW I’M FOUND! I’M FORGIVEN, AND ON MY WAY TO FOREVER—TO A LIFE OF JOY AND ADVENTURE BEYOND IMAGINING!
Yes, we once were lost, but now are found! So now what? Today is mission festival Sunday. Today we take special time to remember that God loves each and every lost soul. God wants them to be found so they too can have a personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ, the world’s only Savior from sin, death and hell. Today we remember that Jesus offered His life and paid for the sin of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived or whoever will live. Today we remember that as those who have been found, we are privileged to be part of God’s RESUCE OPERATION.
Friends, we are surrounded everyday by lost souls. They come in all different shapes and sizes and colors. Some of them are openly sinful—drunks, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals. Some of them are leading outwardly decent and respectable lives. Others are caught in the trap of some Christ-less religion like the Muslim, the Mormon, or the Moonies. But they all have one thing in common, they’re lost. They all need someone to share the message of sin and grace with them, someone to tell them of a Savior, who lived, bled, and rose for them. You don’t have to be a pastor, you don’t have to know the Bible inside and out, you just need to be a forgiven sinner with a heart of faith willing to tell what you know. Sure, we all fail to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us to reach out to this or that lost soul. But we can take those sins and failures to Jesus’ cross with the certainty that we have His forgiveness. We can turn to His Word and Sacrament for strength to be His instruments, through which the seed of His saving word can be planted in some unbelieving heart.
One of our former church members, now living in Florida, has a younger sister who recently passed away somewhere in Pennsylvania. Her name is Heidi. Heidi, forty some years old, was a lost soul. While she had some church experience in her youth, she had wandered far from her Savior’s side. For many years she cut herself off from her family. She married a man who treated her like dirt, and who eventually left her. But her older sister, our former church member, reached out to her. By sharing God’s Word with her, Jesus picked up that lost coin and lost sheep of a destitute woman. Jesus got her—got her heart, her soul, her trust - and she repented of her sinful life. What a party in heaven there must have been that day when Jesus found Heidi and the Spirit put faith in her heart. It wasn’t many months after that she was hospitalized, diagnosed with terminal cancer. Not long after that she was placed under hospice care. Over the phone I had the privilege of sharing with Heidi the message of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb. With only a few days left in this world, Jesus, through me, assured Heidi that nothing could separate her from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Jesus got her and wouldn’t let her go. About two weeks ago she fell asleep in Jesus’ arms, and now she’s with the Lord forever.
Our former church member is no different from you or me: Once lost, now found, and with a wonderful message to share. May your heart and mine, each and every day, offer the prayer of the hymn verse:
Take my voice and let me sing Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from Thee. (TLH # 400, v.3)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.