Bear with me, new readers. I am figuring this out. Over the next few weeks, I will try putting my sermons up in different ways to see what makes most sense and to see what is better for those of you who wander in here.
Today, I am doing the sermon as text. I will do others as audio and then as video. I can do any of them, but alas, being bi-vocational (meaning I have a regular job like everyone else that pays the bills), I don’t have time to do all three.
This is not the same sermon I preached Sunday. One of the things I learned this week as I began doing this is that things I do as I speak, don’t work as well when you write them down. That doesn’t make it better or worse. Just different.
Our Focal Scripture: Luke 15:1-10
15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.
15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
15:3 So he told them this parable:
15:4 “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?
15:5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.
15:6 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.’
15:7 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.
15:8 “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?
15:9 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.’
15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I have been thinking this week about Being Lost
Our scripture today talks about the lost. In the scripture, there are the sinners that Christ is having dinner with. There are the single lamb that was lost and then found. There was the coin. And there were the Pharisees, who in their own way, were lost.
I could have done the regular sermon on this page of scripture, about how much God rejoices at any sinner returning to the fold. It’s true. It’s safe. And we need to be reminded of it from time to time because life and our natures tend to forget.
But mostly, when I look at scripture, I look at it differently. I look at it not in terms of what can other people learnt what can I learn? And so I began to look at these verses in terms of what do I need to learn about being lost? What if we are the lost sheep or the lost coin or the sinner (one who has fallen short) that Jesus is talking about?
What’s the lesson for Me?
Through the week I have thought about the times in life I have been lost. I can remember being hopelessly lost in Wales once, and wandering around the city of Cardiff trying to find my way out of the city and to the far side of the country, wandering through mountains and mountains of slate and sheep. We got there, but not without help.
And I can remember a time when at age 38, when I had just started a new company, and had a new house and a new baby. So much seemed to be going right. I felt like I was in the prime of life. And then, while away at a convention in Las Vegas, I contracted a form of viral pneumonia that left me incredibly week. 10 days in Desert Springs Hospital, and six months of recovery. I felt I would never get my strength back, never get to a place where I could work effectively, again. I was lost.
Looking back, I can see that I was lost for a long time after my divorce. 25 years as a husband and a day to day dad, and suddenly all that was gone. I had real trouble finding my way again, figuring out who and what I was and where I fit. That process began after the separation, but took years. Part of that figuring out for me was where I fit in a church world that for the most part, looks askance at divorced folks like me. I became part of a Baptist Church that I loved, where the people were warm, but I did not fit there theologically, and so I could go, but never teach or lead or be a part of the things I knew how to do. It took a long time to move past that lostness before I found Rupert United Methodist, and began teaching and became a part of their church family. There was years of that lostness, of spiritual wandering trying to find my way.
There were other places in my life that I felt loss. We all do. Deaths. Losses. Relationships. Health issues. All of us come to a place now and again where we feel overwhelmed. Where we feel somewhere, we’ve gone off track. Where we feel…. Lost.
Don’t get separated
To prepare for this sermon, I looked at my own experiences, and looked through the bible, trying to understand what all these lost experiences, in my life and in these scriptures, might have in common.
The first thing that jumped out at me was that we get tend to get lost most easily when we separate from our flock.
Seems obvious for sheep, I know. But it’s less obvious to the rest of us. We were made for relationship. From the very beginning we’re told that Man (people) were not meant to be alone. People support us. People tend to notice when we are going off track and will help us stay on a better path. It is why we are given people in our lives, whether it’s family or churches or other positive, supportive, spiritual groups.
When I got lost in Wales. I was in a place that used Welsh more than English, and a lot of the signs made no sense to me. I needed help. When I was lost after my viral pneumonia, I was far from friends, or family or anyone I knew. Even when I got home, I was for a time separated from the people who had helped me and guided me. I was for a time, disconnected, and that isolation left me lost longer than I wanted to be.
And after my divorce? Well, I had gotten to a bad place even before the divorce. I now know how much depression contributed to that bad place. I know the other influences that hurt me and contributed to my own lostness. One of the biggest ones is that I had let myself become isolated from the very people that I needed most. It was not until I began to reconnect with God and my dearest friends, that I began to find my way out.
Just like the lamb in the parable.
Stay close to your tribe, to your people, to God. They may drive you crazy sometimes and being human, they will do stupid stuff (because we all do), but they are better at keeps from being lost than we are ourselves.
Sometimes we need help getting unlost
Yeah, this one we have trouble with sometimes. Men don’t ask for directions. We’re Americans, land of the myth of self-made success. I live in Vermont, which takes individualism to an extreme. It’s part of the culture.
When we are lost, we are bombarded by media that tells us that we shouldn’t be. There is a shame in not having it together, a shame at being lost. Even the church, which should be the best at welcoming the lost, sometimes puts off the very lost souls we are supposed to love.
But, by definition, we are lost. Whatever the situation – work, health, relationships, faith, all of the above, when we are lost, we don’t know the way. We can wander on our own. We can stumble through and hope we get our bearings.
Or we can just get help. As Christians, we have the bible, but for some, it’s a big confusing, contraction of a book. So often we still need a guide. Even if we avoid it.
In the scripture, the lamb needed the shepherd. The coin needed the woman to go through the house with her brooms till she found it. And at times, we need others to help us get unlost too.
I am so grateful for those who helped me get unlost. They include pastors, laypeople, a couple of wonderful therapists, and one or two dear, dear friends. Without them, I assure you, I would still be one very, very lost man.
Sometimes we can get unlost on our own, but sometimes we can’t. Or even if we can, it is a much longer, trial and error journey, and at times we end up even more lost.
Look around you if you are lost or overwhelmed. Who might be a good guide out? Go on and talk to them.
It sometimes takes time to get Unlost
I don’t know about you, but these days when I travel, at the first hint of feeling lost, I pull out my cell phone, pull up Google Maps and get directions. I want to get unlost and I want to get unlost now.
In life, we may want the same thing, but that’s often not how it works out.
First of all, sometimes we won’t admit we are lost. We think we are fine. Or we know we are not and something keeps us from admitting it.
Or maybe we don’t even recognize it. Want to know how many times I’ve passed my exit on the interstate and didn’t even know it until I hit the next city? Don’t ask. It’s embarrassing.
In the scriptures, the people listening knew it took time. A lamb that got lost could be anywhere among the nooks and crannies of the hills about the town. It would take a time to find it, and a time to bring it home.
Ever lose your keys, and the hour it took to find them? Finding a coin would have been the same way for the woman in the parable and the listeners would have understood.
It is no different for us. If we are lost, it will take time to get back. Have patience with yourself, and with others finding their way back. It’s often hard.
God does not want us lost.
That is not his plan for us. He wants us in a good, safe, place in our lives. He wants us to know him and know his love. He wants us to be able to draw on that love and his power and his comfort and his peace so we can have those things in our own lives.
That’s why he gives us the bible. That’s why he gave us his son. That’s why he provides good and Godly people in our lives, to help keep us on a good path, and to help us find our way again when we get lost.
Because we all do sometimes. By mistake or rebellion or distraction or simply meandering away or because of events that knock us down. We all get lost. The good news is that as often as we might be lost, the path back is always available to us. He gives us far more opportunities to come home than we probably deserve.
One last thing.
God rejoices when we are found. When we become unlost. When we rejoin the flock. When we feel loved and safe again. When we have turned away from whatever led us to be lost in the first place.
That’s right. He rejoices. That rejoicing of God and Angels thing? It’s not just for someone else. We’re not so perfect that we don’t ever get lost. We do. And when we make our way back, when we reach back out to God and his people, when we find ourselves once again unlost, filling ourselves again and living in his love, God rejoices.
As any father would.
Be well. Travel wisely,