14th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
As a young child, I remember my brother constantly telling me to ‘get lost’. He didn’t actually mean for me to become lost, as that would cause him problems with our parents later if I could not be found. It was a way of saying he didn’t want me hanging around with him or his friends. Basically, he just wanted me to go away and out of sight.
At one point in our lives I’m sure we have experienced loss. We have lost some item that was of great value; this is a physical loss. We may have lost a relationship. And of course, we may have found ourselves geographically lost.
If a child becomes lost to a parent, he or she leaves no stone unturned to find the child. The parent would search day and night in order to redeem that child. Why? Because of love. This brings up the lost item in which all people seek diligently – Love. I don’t know of any human being who does not constantly seek love from others. I don’t know of any human being who has experienced the collapse of a relationship for loss of love and say, ‘I guess I will never love again.’ On the contrary, people continually seek out love their entire lives.
It is a frightful and anxious thing to lose something valuable but even more so a human being. I believe it is because deep down inside, we realize we can live without great wealth or great power, and so we can rationalize these things away from our thoughts. However, to lose a human life strikes deep to the heart of our very being; after all, we are human too.
One dark night, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a man was lost over the side of the ship. There were two Navy ships underway heading towards Indonesia. I was on a roving watch that night when word came to us that a man on the other ship had fallen overboard. Every sailor on both ships scrambled to rescue the man.
I was sent to the upper deck where there was a huge spotlight mounted. I thought that with such a powerful and large light, I would easily be able to spot the man. I switched on the lamp and began to move the beam around the water. This is what I found; it is really really dark at night in the middle of the ocean. All that I could see with my light was a circle about 5 feet in diameter on the ever-moving waves.
I came to understand that I would probably not find the unfortunate sailor. But do not be alarmed, he was found by his shipmates and was rescued. The reason he was found was because nobody gave up looking. Even in what seemed to be a lost cause, everybody kept searching. And when he was found, there was great rejoicing.
Like a valuable coin or a lost sheep, we rejoice when we find that which has been lost in our lives. We too, let our friends and family know our joy when a valued possession has been returned to our keeping. This is all well and good and we should give thanks and glory to God for these blessings. However, our values are often misplaced because of our sinful natures.
I am sure we could all think of some item of importance specific to our souls. Yet, more often than not, it is that which does not make the list that causes greater loss. For instance, how many ‘Christians’ would light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully if they had lost their Bible? How many people would leave their family to find the faith in Christ Jesus they once had as a child? Who would give up their day off in order to hear the Word of God and receive the forgiveness of sins? Who would give up all that they own in order to follow Jesus?
You see? We have it all backwards. Like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”, we place importance on things of this world. [Luke 15:1-2] Jesus knows this and for this reason speaks to the Pharisees in a way they can understand. They know the value of livestock. They know the value of a day’s wages, but they do not know the value of a human soul – not even their own.
In the same way we too seek relentlessly for what is lost. We search out means to make us happy and content. We believe our health, wealth and welfare all come from our works. We think it is up to us to find that one important thing to save ourselves.
The truth is – the lost sheep does not find its way home. More often than not, a lion or wolf devours the wandering sheep as it looks for greener grass. We have delusions of grandeur thinking we are the shepherd, we are in control, but we are not. God knows his people and therefore He comes to us as our true shepherd. God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel:
‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.”’ [Ezekiel 34:11-13]
Our True Shepherd assures us that He will feed us, protect us and shelter us. He promises to seek us out when we are lost. He will bring back those who have been driven away by the wolves in sheep’s clothing, those who swear by the name of God but only take for themselves. The Rightful Shepherd will bind up the broken and strengthen the sick. [Ezekiel 34:14-16]
He established one shepherd over His people and that was His servant David. Six hundred years before Jesus Christ, God appointed David to be the shepherd of God’s people. Through those years, the flock was scattered and gathered, lost and found. They too lost their sacred word of God and their house of worship. God therefore sent the Good Shepherd in His Son, Jesus.
This shepherd was born in our flesh, yet he was also the Son of the True Shepherd of us all. Like David, he was a servant to God who came to gather the lost, to welcome the sinners and to eat with them a meal of everlasting life in his very own body and blood.
But first, he had to fight the great Adversary, Satan. He lived without sin in order to redeem those lost in the dark forest of the devil himself. He entered that kingdom of death after being crucified on the cross. He sacrificed his life so that he could free the prisoners of sin. He entered the very den of the lion to save the lost sheep. He went into the cave with the sins of the world on his shoulders and on the third day, he walked out of the grave carrying the salvation of all the lost.
I can only imagine the rejoicing angles in heaven when the Good Shepherd redeemed us all. We share in that joy each time a child is baptized into the body of Christ. We know the comfort of our Lord when we receive forgiveness of sin through the bread and wine at this altar. We are truly saved and blessed forevermore.
This is good news, but it is not the final conclusion in our lives. It is true we are of the flock of the Good Shepherd, but it is also true that there are some still wandering the hills and valleys of this life. It is also true that there are some sheep that muddy the waters after they have refreshed themselves. Some butt the weak ones with their horns and scatter them. [Ezekiel 34:18, 21] These lost sheep are important and loved by our Lord Jesus and we have been commanded to light the lamp and search carefully until we find them.
We all have received the mercy of God in our ignorance and unbelief. [1Timothy 1:13] We now walk in the newness of life through Christ Jesus our Lord. His grace now overflows in you with the faith and love that was once lost in our sin but now lives in us through him. [1Timothy 1:14] Through the perfect patience of Jesus Christ, we now live as an example to those who believe in him for eternal life. [1Timothy 1:16]
Therefore, seek the lost and you will find them. Bring them to the Love of Christ Jesus, the True Shepherd. Every little lamb is a valued possession of our Lord. Search for them as you would your own child.
Such work may require you to walk through the dark valley but fear not. The Lord is your shepherd. He will not leave you or forsake you. He has prepared a place for you in the good pasture high on the holy mountain of God. There your cup will overflow with the goodness and mercy of our Father in heaven where you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [Psalm 23]
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. [1 Timothy 1:17]