Lost and Found: this week’s Lectionary sermon I won’t be preaching but wish I was
So I was in my pastors lectionary study and most of our energy this week went into Jesus’ parables of finding the lost in Luke 15. We had quickly gone right by Exodus 32 (I’m an interloper with another friend in a Lutheran study that uses the alternate texts) where God is getting mad about the golden calf and ready to let anger “burn hot” against the Israelites while Moses had to convince the Lord to remember that it was God who found and rescued these – God’s – people. Instead we focused on finding the lost sheep and coin. In our study two of the members really got us thinking about what it meant to be the lost. And how this text was more about rejoicing over being found, the joy of re-uniting than it is about saving the sinners – after all, there really isn’t 99 righteous to be left in search of a single lost one. We are all the lost.
Their thoughts helped me see this idea that the text was about rejoicing in being re-united and thinking about how we become separated from so much in our lives. We become separated from our home… from people… even from ourselves. And we even revel in those separations. Church’s split, not because it’s inevitable or necessary or good, but because for some reason we value our own rightness rather than being together. We foster a competitive spirit in sporting teams, and nation states that is about widening separations between us and them – widening a gap between success and failure – between right and wrong. And to this worldview Jesus offers an upside down vision. Let us rejoice when we realize that very one we separated out is back among us. In the words of my friend Marci Auld Glass looking at the Luke text, “when the complaint ‘he eats with sinners’ becomes the joyous proclamation, ‘he EVEN eats with sinners!’
This continued to sit with me. The text is about all of us being lost and that God’s greatest joy is when we are all gathered back into comm-unity. The text reminds us that when we come together across divides and set aside being right for being together it is worthy of joy – of much rejoicing in heaven and on earth as it is in heaven. At least that appears to be the message the parables are offing the Pharisees who have made a point to creates boundaries that set some people outside of God’s grace. And then I realized that this gets us right back to the Moses’ text we wanted to skip. Moses is God’s way of “finding” the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. Moses finds them. But Moses was also lost. And Moses wasn’t simply found by the burning bush. His journey of becoming found took most of the journey to the Promised Land. These were two groups of lost people that could only become “found” together. They found each other through God, and through journeys good and bad.
But there is yet more to this connection. You see in the encounter in question between God and Moses on the mountain it turns out that God is lost. God has forsaken – forgotten – God’s people. God tells Moses, “Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt…” God has disowned the people and Moses has to remind God this is not God’s way (I know right? What’s up with that – a whole new spin on lost and found and remembering). “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants…’ And the Lord changed his mind…” Reminded God turns back – is reunited – with God’s people. Moses is found, the people are found, and God is found. And there is much rejoicing. (Well… eventually.)
We are all – always – on a journey of being lost and found. Of losing and finding. Of separating and being united. And God weeps with us when we are lost… and rejoices with us when are found. And God rejoices even more when that is true of us as well, when we are able to find joy in being reunited rather than in separating out.
So in world full of division, of Either/Or, In/Out, Right/Wrong, may we choose to turn the world upside down with Jesus and watch our complaints become our rejoicing. May we seek to bring together, to welcome, include, and rejoice. Not that we are uniform, but that we are united. That we are capable of overcoming hurt, pain, and difference to see that we are all lost and found together. Thanks be to God.