Friday, September 24, 2010

Sermon for Year C Proper 19

The Lost and Found Box

Where my husband works, at the Valle Crucis Conference Center,
they host many groups.
Some come for one overnight,
others stay multiple nights.
Young people come, older people come, all ages, all genders,
many faith traditions and even some business groups.

As at many places,
they have a lost and found box at the Conference Center.
People leave things behind.
We lose things.

I sent Tom an email this week and asked if he would give me a list
of all the things in his lost and found box on this one particular day.

Here’s the report:

Assorted books and notebooks
Bible in a black leather carrying case
Assorted pillows
Child’s stuffed cat (I believe it is a toy stuffed cat—not a real one!!)
Child’s stuffed fairy horse
Black belt
Printed scarf
Pair of black leather sandals—size 15
Empty suitcase (not sure what they packed in to go home!)
Camera chargers
Reading glasses
A knit hat
A Woman’s blouse

And the number one left behind item—
there are about 20 of these in the lost and found box at this time--
—cell phone chargers!

Sometimes people call when they leave something behind.
Some people will even pay to have it shipped to them.
But most people—
either they don’t know they lost the item,
or they can’t think WHERE and WHEN hey lost the item
or they don’t care.
Sometimes things are lost and never found.

Many of you have probably heard of—
or even kept—
a gratitude journal.
A journal where at the end of the day,
you write down 3 or 4 things that you are grateful for,
trying to think back over the day,
remembering the little blessings that we often forget.

As I read our gospel lesson for this week—
parables of lost sheep, lost coins—
as I thought about the piercing significance of this September 11th date--
I thought about what it would be to keep a “lost” journal.
Things I have lost.

Physical losses--
Losing our keys,
Losing one earring of our favorite pair,
Losing the elusive matching sock that goes into the dryer
and never come out,
Losing the ability to do push ups
(not sure I ever really found that one!)

Emotional losses—
Losing a friend,
losing our job,
losing our memory.

Landmark losses—
Having our house burn down,
Losing someone who was the love of our life,
Losing our innocence…

That would not be a very uplifting journal—things we have lost.
Yet those lost things always ride with us,
Sometimes out of mind,
but never really out of heart.

It is an interesting juxtaposition--
this gospel coinciding with September 11.
A day of loss—
not just for Americans,
but truly for the whole world.

Sometimes when the world or our own life is in pieces,
the truth is
we don’t have the energy or the heart or the faith
to go and look, to search.

We feel overwhelmed by the harsh reality
of knowing that time can never be rewound.
Life will never go back to what it once was.
Loss often changes everything.

Jesus’ parables today call us to trust that God is looking for us
and God will find us.

The message of today’s gospel
is how much God cares about those who are lost.
The message of today’s gospel
is that God never stops looking for us.
The message of today’s gospel
is that God’s deepest longing
is that we will be found. Each one of us.

A sheep is about as common a creature as one could find in Jesus’ day.
Sheep were not exotic animals.
Jesus does not tell us a parable about someone in Palestine
in search of a kangaroo.
Just another sheep. Just another common creature. Lost.

And goodness!
If you have ever had anything to do with sheep,
you know they wander away in a heartbeat.
That blade of grass on the other side of the fence?
It does indeed look better to a sheep’s eye
and they wiggle their way
through the barbed wire or the brambles
and then that blade of grass
leads to another blade of grass
leads to another
to another, to…
and then they look up…
and realize
they have wandered away from both flock and shepherd.
They are lost.
Some of us know too well what it is to be a wandering, lost sheep.

What an amazing parable to teach us that all the sheep matter.
ALL the sheep matter.
No one is common or insignificant to God.
God keeps calling. God keeps searching.
God is not the kind of shepherd who gives up.
Not the kind of shepherd who gets fed up and says “This just isn’t worth it!”

Lost coins.
Coins are about as inanimate as we can imagine inanimacy!
We might care if we lost a twenty-dollar bill,
but a penny?!!
Though I remember my mother
always keeping an eye out for lost pennies along the sidewalk,
or in a parking lot.
She would shriek with joy
as she bent over to pick up what she always dubbed
her “ lucky penny”.

She didn’t need those pennies to pay bills
or for any practical reason—
she just felt drawn to always keep an eye out
for the wayward coin.

God’s eye is like that too. Always on the lookout for the wayward coin.
If we listen carefully we might hear God shout with joy
when one of his “lucky pennies” shows up.
Lost coins—
dropped without care or concern or acknowledgement.
There are people like that too.
God is anxious to pick us up,
dust us off, and delight that we are found.

Today’s gospel is not about you.
It is not about me.
It is all about God.

Jesus is teaching us about the nature of God, the way of God.

Yes, we get lost. We go lost.
We wander away—sometimes on purpose, sometimes accidentally.

We need to understand that God is always looking for us.
We need to understand that God is both patient and persistent.

Imagine God walking around with a gigantic, enormous lost and found box.
The sweet lambs and the black sheep.
The lucky pennies and the bounced checks.
All sorts, all kinds, all conditions.
Here we are.
All tumbled together in God’s box of the beloved.

God loves us all. Every single one of us.
Lost and found.

No one is forgotten.
No one.

That may not be our way
But that is the way of God.

That is the good news.
That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No comments: