SOUGHT & FOUND… Luke 15:1-10

Jim and the choir forbade me from including the song I REALLY wanted us to sing today. They said it was too… funereal. The rolled their eyes and grimaced when they practiced it. I just want to mention that the 16th century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther , said that the devil enters through the choir…! I’m just saying! But I’m giving the devil his due this morning and NOT making you sing a grim and funereal hymn. Which doesn’t mean that I can’t do it! So I’m just going to do a verse or so, because it is PERFECT for today’s scripture reading!

“O Love, that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer fuller be.”

Isn’t that beautiful- O Love, that will not let me go… And the third verse- I can’t forget the third verse:

“O Joy, who seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.”

O Joy, who seekest me through pain… and then that incredibly poetic line, “I trace the rainbow through the rain.” Okay, so the tune is a bit grim- but the words are sublime. They remind me of Psalm 139: “If I make my bed in hell, You are there. If I fly on the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, there You will find me, and Your right hand will hold me.

Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God. Nothing. (Romans 8:39)  No matter how lost we are, there is One who will not stop seeking us until we’re found. And it doesn’t matter if we’ve screwed up, or walked out in angry, or been driven into the bowels of hell in pain: there is One who will never stop seeking us, to restore us again into life.

When my daughter Caitlin was two- an absolutely enchanting if occasionally mindless two- we were in the mall. It was a great mall, with a merry-go-round and big fountain right inside. It was one of our very favorite places. It was Christmas time, and the place was packed. Dick and I were shopping, and I had Caitlin’s hand in mine. I think I reached out to get something, and when I returned my hand to Cait’s- she was gone. Disappeared. We searched all around us with no luck. Our minds immediately went to the dark place: child abduction. We called mall security, and they immediately locked all the doors and went on a full-out search. They found her about 15 minutes later, down at the far end of the mall by the fountain.  Dick and I were in tears- tears of fear, of anger with ourselves, tears of relief. We wanted to look sternly at Caitlin and tell her to never, ever go off on her own again, but instead, we went for ice cream.

And right after that, we went to the Kids R Us and bought one of those elastic chains that you lock onto both your wrist and theirs. As a matter of fact, up until this past Rummage sale, I still had that elastic chain. You never know when you’ll need to velcro your 28-yr old daughter to your wrist. Much to my daughter’s relief, I put it in the church rummage sale this year… but I keep the memory.

Would Dick and I have ever given up looking for our little girl? No. Never. By the grace of God and the mall police, we only had to search for about 15 minutes. But if she hadn’t been found in 15 minutes, would we have ever stopped looking? No. Never.

In the scripture today, a shepherd loses one of his flock of 100 sheep. A woman loses one of her 10 coins. And they search high and low, with that gnawing worry at the pit of their stomachs (okay, I’m reading the gnawing worry in the pit of their stomachs into the text, but that’s what I would have at the pit of my stomach.)

And they look and look, until with relief they find what they’ve lost: The sheep. The coin. And what do they do? They go out for ice cream! They call all their friends and family, and invite them over for a great big celebration (which probably costs more than the sheep and coin combined.) ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin, the sheep, that I had lost!’ Just like Jesus does whenever He find something or someone lost. Rejoice with me!’

But then, here comes this odd little bend in the story. The end to these parables is Jesus saying to the Pharisees, and tax collectors, and various women and disciples around him,“Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

What is this this about repenting sinners? Sheep don’t repent. Coins don’t repent. They can’t repent, because they don’t sin. They just are, and sometimes they get lost and need to be found.

So who needs to repent? That would be the people Jesus is telling this story to:

…the Pharisees (who were the religiously observant ones like us),

…and the tax collectors (who were traitors in cahoots with the Roman government),

…and the women (who always seem to have to repent of one thing or another!).

…Oh yes- and the disciples, the disciples of Jesus, who are always screwing up and needing to repent of something.

Oh, but that word repent. We need to talk about that. In English word repentance  implies contrition and remorse. I’m so sorry, I’m a bad person, I’ll never do it again.

But in Greek, the word which we translate as  repentence is  metanoia  Metanoia has to do with a change of mind and purpose — a shift in how we perceive and respond to life.  Metanoia is what happens to a monarch butterfly when it transforms in its chrysalis and emerges a new creation. It’s that song we heard at the offering today, The Touch of the Master’s Hand:

And many a man with life out of tune

And battered and scarred with sin

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd

Much like the old violin…

…But the master comes and the foolish crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought

By the touch of the master’s hand

When God finds us when we are lost, it is as if we are emerging from our old selves into a new creation. The battered old violin begins to sing. Our usual ways of perceiving and responding to life are transformed.

It’s not like we don’t have any more problems. It’s not like we alcoholics or shopaholics or overeaters no longer have any urges or battles to be fought. But something inside us has changed; something inside us has been seen and known and loved. And we are given a perspective, and a strength, and a hope, and a life we didn’t have before.

These are the ones over whom all the angels rejoice when they are found by the loving God, the good shepherd, the wise woman. And just so you know, the third parable of this set, that we didn’t hear today, has to do with a lost son, a prodigal son, and the father who never gives up looking for him.

“Quickly!” the father cries out, “bring the best robe and put it on my son. Put a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet! And prepare the fatted calf, and let us eat and celebrate! For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate, and I believe there was ice cream involved.

Because nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)

Nothing.

O Love, that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer fuller be.

In the name of the One who will never let us go; even Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Resources: workingpreacher.org:  Sept 15, 2019, Amanda Brobst-Renaud;  Sept 11, 2016, David Schnasa Jacobsen; Sept 15, 2013, Lois Malcolm 

 

Scripture for Sept. 15, 2019     LUKE 15:1-10

Large crowds were following Jesus as He preached. All the tax collectors and sinners came close to listen. The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told 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, who has ten silver drachmas (a coin worth a day’s wage.) If she loses one, will she 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.”

Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.

 

The Touch of the Master’s Hand, Myra Brooks Welch
-by Myra Brooks Welch

‘Twas battered and scarred and the old auctioneer
He though it scarcely worthwhile
To waste much time with the old violin
But he held it up with a smile

What am I bidden, good folk, he cried
Who’ll start the bidding for me
A dollar, a dollar, come, who’ll make it two
Two dollars, now who’ll make it three

Three dollars once and three dollars twice
And going for three — but no
From the back of the room a grey haired man
Stepped forward and picked up the bow

And brushing the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the loose strings
He played a melody pure and so sweet
Sweet as the angels sing

When the music ceased the old auctioneer
In a voice that was quiet and low
Asked, What am I bidden for the old violin
And he held it up with the bow

A thousand dollars — come, who’ll make it two
Two thousand, and who’ll make it three
Three thousand once and three thousand twice
And going and gone, cried he

And the people shouted, and some of them cried
We do not quite understand
What changed its worth — swift came the reply
The touch of the master’s hand

And many a man with life out of tune
And battered and scarred with sin
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine
A game and he travels on
He’s going once and he’s going twice
He’s going and almost gone

But the master comes and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the master’s hand

2019-09-17T08:06:49-06:00