Lost and Found

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  September 11, 2022

Click here to listen to the service 
Read Luke 15:1 – 10
It hardly seems possible that it has been twenty-one years since the events of 9/11 shook our nation and the world to its very core.  Ironically none of our grandchildren have known anything other than this post 9/11 world… but if you’re like me, you can probably remember exactly where you were on that day when life as we knew it changed forever. 
I was at work in downtown Cleveland in the Fifth Third Building which at the time was on the corner of East Ninth Street and Rockwell… directly behind the Federal Reserve Bank and just two blocks away from the Federal Building.
One of my co-workers came to my office door and told me that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings… needless to say, I was shocked but I had absolutely no clue as to the gravity of the situation at that time.
I remember going downstairs to the banking center on the first floor to take care of some transactions… still not fully appreciating what was happening… and the banking center manger came over to me and said that the other tower had been hit… and so had the Pentagon. 
My first thought was that some sick and twisted individual was trying to pull a prank and spread a fake news story about the second tower and the Pentagon… but the manager assured me it was definitely not a hoax.
As I got into the elevator to go back to my office, all I could do was pray… asking, “Lord, if this is the start of your return, please take me now.  I don’t want to see what happens next.”  Having read the Left Behind series of books as well as the Book of Revelations, I believed that things were going to get a whole lot worse before they got any better… and I wanted no part of the worst that was yet to come.
Trying to get home out of downtown that day was a nightmare. The streets were in gridlock as people were allowed to leave work early… especially because there was a legitimate fear that the high-rise buildings were at risk of being targeted. 
And then once I finally arrived home, watching replay after replay of what had taken place was unlike anything I had ever experienced before… and it is something that I pray I never have to experience again. 
For days and weeks, images of police officers, fire fighters and other emergency personnel digging through rubble filled our TV screens, newspaper headlines and magazine covers.  There were posters that people hung with photos of their loved ones on them… loved ones who were lost and had not yet been found… or perhaps to put it more accurately, had not yet been identified.
There were nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and aboard United flight 93 which went down in Pennsylvania.   Tens of thousands of other people were injured… 
And in spite of the risks inherent in the search and rescue efforts, there was an unparalleled unanimity in the press to keep looking until all those who were lost had been found.
And so today, twenty-one years after that fateful day, the Lectionary calls our attention to the Gospel of Luke and two of Jesus’ parables about that which was lost being found… and that is why for the remainder of our time together this morning, I want to focus our attention on the subject:
Now according to Webster’s Dictionary, a parable is “a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson; especially, one of the stories told by Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible.”  You may also have heard a parable described as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. 
It was not uncommon to find Jesus using parables to teach moral and spiritual lessons to His disciples as well as many others who gathered around Him.  And these same parables still serve to teach us similar moral and spiritual lessons today.
Our text for the morning is focused on the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin; however, the 15th chapter of Luke’s Gospel contains a trio of parables about lost things being found.
Unlike the third parable which is the Parable of the Lost Son, or as it is more commonly referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which involves a son who was lost returning home to a forgiving father… the Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin in our text today both involve someone having to go in search of what was lost.
In the text, Jesus posed the question, “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?”
And while some might question the rationale behind leaving 99 sheep to go in search of a single one… presumably the 99 have already been made safe in the sheep pen… however, the one sheep who has gone wandering off in the wilderness is in great danger and in need of saving.
Throughout the Scriptures we find story after story of Jesus associating with sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes… because they were the ones most in need of a Savior… they were the lost sheep who needed to be found.
The reality is that at some point in our lives… we were [and perhaps still are] the lost sheep who needed to be found.  But for those who have been found… we would do well to go out into the world and start looking until the other sheep who are lost and in need of a Savior are found as well.
Now, as we keep reading, a few verses later in our text we come to these words of Jesus, “…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?”
According to scholars, in biblical times, women were given ten silver coins as a wedding gift or a dowry.  And although there was monetary value attached to those ten coins, there would have also been sentimental value associated with even one of them. 
So it should come as no real surprise then that the woman would keep looking in every nook and cranny of her house until what was lost had been found.
And there is a message to be found in this parable for us as the church, even now in the 21st century.
Churches everywhere ought to keep looking in every nook and cranny until those who are lost have found their way to the Lord… not because of any monetary contribution they can make to a church’s bottom line… but because of the value they can bring as a part of the body of Christ.
Now while the Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin were about going out to find what was lost… the Parable of the Lost Son was about the one who was lost finding his way back home to his forgiving father.
However, there is something that all three of these parables of lost things have in common.  When that which was lost had been found… there was a time of rejoicing.
In talking about the sheep that was LOST AND FOUND, Jesus said:

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.
And when He talked about the coin that had also been LOST AND FOUND, He said:
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.
And after the prodigal son who was lost in the world found his way back home, the Scriptures tell us that the father
… was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
If it is one sheep that is LOST AND FOUND… rejoice.
If it is one coin that is LOST AND FOUND… celebrate.
If it is one son or daughter, brother or sisters, husband or wife, that is LOST AND FOUND… throw a party and have a good time.
And if it is one new visitor who joins us in the church for worship…
If it is one new person who calls into the conference call line…
If it is one new member who unites with our church family…
We rejoice… we celebrate… we have a good time… but most of all, we give praise to God for that one.
And when we get done with the rejoicing and celebrating and having a good time praising God… it will be time to start all over…
Looking for the next person we can invite to join us for a time of fellowship on a Friday night or worship on a Sunday morning.
Looking for the next person we can share our testimony with.
Looking for the next person we can tell about our living Savior who “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). 
Now perhaps you wondering how long we should keep looking… especially when it begins to feel like like we may never find even one…
Just remember Jesus NEVER stopped looking for us.
Someone may have noticed that the father in the Parable of the Lost Son did not actually go out into the world to look for that lost son where he had gone to sow his wild oats… but the Scriptures say, “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him.”
That means the father must have been watching and waiting… trusting and believing that the son who was lost would one-day be found.
Unlike the coin and the sheep, the son had freewill to choose whether to stay out in the world or to come back home to his father who was waiting with arms open wide… looking forward to the day when he could finally say, “Welcome home, my child.”
And that is how God waits for us… for all of us who have been given freewill…
God waits expectantly… patiently waiting for us to come to our senses and realize that the glitz and the glamour of the world is not all it is cracked up to be because it is destined to fade away… while the safety and security of God’s love will last for all of eternity… and the place that God has prepared for each of His children promises to be far greater than anything this world could ever have to offer.
And that is why God gave us His Son, Jesus, as our Savior… for He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) … and through Him we have received access to the greatest gift ever given… “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
So, just like the shepherd who keeps looking until the one sheep that was lost has been found… just like the woman who keeps searching until the one coin that was lost has been found… and just like the father who keeps watching and waiting until the son who was lost has been found… God is waiting and waiting until each and every one of His children who were lost have been found…
And when that time comes, there will be rejoicing and celebration unlike anything we could ever imagine.
But now, before we move on to our time of communion, there is something else that is important for us to notice as it relates to our New Testament lesson this morning… and that is the reason why Jesus told these parables in the first place…
Jesus told them in response to the Pharisees who were mumbling and grumbling about the company Jesus was keeping… namely the sinners and tax collectors who had gathered around to listen to Him… looking for encouragement, instruction and guidance on how to live a better life. 
However, the Pharisees were too busy looking down their noses at them for doing exactly what we are all supposed to be doing when we come into the house of the Lord… they were looking for Jesus so they could find restoration and redemption.
It is reminiscent of a scenario we read about in Mark’s Gospel (2:15 – 17) when Jesus was having dinner at the home of a man named Levi along with many tax collectors and sinners as well as His disciples.  However, when the good church folk… the Pharisees… the teachers of the law… saw Jesus consorting with “those kind of people” … they asked Jesus’ disciples, quite judgmentally I might add, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But before the disciples could craft a response to the Pharisees’ question, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Those who are sick do what they can to get to the hospital and doctors so they can find healing for their minds and bodies… and sinners make their way to Jesus where they can find salvation for their souls…
Now, that actually reminds me of something profound one of my former students said a while ago in response to that story… he said that getting upset about sinners and people of poor reputations coming into the church is like getting mad when you go to a hospital because there are sick people all over the place.
And so, as we think about how far off base the Pharisees were, sitting in their seats of righteous indignation… and how far off base we can become when we cast critical and judgmental looks at “those people” who come in search of Jesus… it would seem that it was not only the sheep, the coin, and the prodigal son that were lost and needed to be found…
The fact of the matter is that we were ALL lost at one time or another.  And we are ALL in need of a Savior.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Paul wanted to help the early Christians understand that none of us… neither Jew nor Gentile… no one group has an exclusive claim to righteousness… because Jesus gave His life for all.
And that message still applies to the church today… … whether male or female or nonbinary… whether rich or poor or middle class… whether Black or White… whether young or old… whether Republican or Democrat or independent… there is no one group that has a greater claim than any other to the gift of grace that Christ offers to us ALL through His death on the cross. 
Now, as Paul goes on to say in that letter to the Romans, “… the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
It is a gift of love that God extends to everyone… we just have to be willing to accept it… not because we deserve it… but simply because God loves us…
And that is what is so amazing about God’s grace… there is nothing we have done to deserve it… nothing we can do to earn it… and nothing we can do to lose it… because as Paul reminds us there is absolutely nothing that can ever separate us from the love of God (see Romans 8:38 – 39).
And that is really good news for all of us who once were lost but can thank God that now we have been found… and if that is your testimony today, then won’t you stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: Amazing Grace #546