Sermon – 03-27-22 – Lent IV – Cycle C
Scripture: Joshua 5:9-12; Palm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Sermon Title: “The Lost Ones Are Found”
Happy are Those! That is the title of our choir anthem today. Thank you to Pastor Bob for finding this anthem. It has been bouncing around in our heads for a bunch of weeks. Did you hear it in our Call to Worship earlier? It is about finding. Don’t you just feel like dancing when you find a lost object? Especially our cell phones. More rejoicing over a lost diamond or an important paper like a baptismal certificate or a birth certificate or a scarce book you borrowed.
Even more rejoicing when a missing dog or cat appears in front of your eyes and is in your arms in the blink of an eye. Moving right along to a missing child who is found. Or health restored. Happy are those!
In our Joshua passage today, the Israelites have been allowed to find the promised land. They find real food after existing on manna for 40 or so years. Things are changed. They have arrived in the promised land, a place to settle and have children as numerous as the stars and as the grains of sand on the beach. Happy are those!
Objects are easily lost. People are easily lost. Our positions in life can be lost. We can lose our loved ones in many ways. We can lose our peace of mind because we can’t lose our guilt completely. We could! We are given the opportunity to lose our guilt. We are invited to let it go because Jesus Christ has claimed our guilt. Jesus Christ has claimed our sins.
This Jesus we are meeting on Wednesday evenings let himself be crucified instead of each of us needing to bring animal sacrifices. Jesus let himself be crucified instead of our dying without ever being forgiven. Instead of our living encased in guilt.
Jesus and the Father want us to have peace of mind. How does one do that? Peace of mind. All of my past transgressions are swimming seemingly endlessly, forever in my brain and heart and soul – wherever that is. But, peace is possible. It is waiting to be claimed. God wants us to feel the sensation of freedom. The Holy Spirit waits to help us find what is lost – the innocence of a baby for each of us no matter the age.
So I picture a totally empty space like a ring around my head. At first, it can be a thin ring where there is nothing. No rights, no wrongs. No deadlines. No arguments welling up inside of me. No decisions. No anger. No shame because we have not handled something well. Nothing except freedom and the Holy Spirit. I can fall asleep as my head sings, “Happy are those!”
What does this have to do with the lost sheep being found and the lost coin being found and finally the lost son returning to the fold? Why did the sheep stray? Why did the coin roll away? Why did the son leave in a very selfish way? The coin followed the path of least resistance. The sheep may have kept eating without looking ahead or the sheep may have been like the son, resisting the control of the shepherd and the father; yearning for something better – the green grass on the other side of the fence, so to speak.
We may long for better places. We may yearn for more money, for better health, for greener grass in our front yard. Happy are those, our anthem goes. Happy are those who live in your house, the Psalm and the song go. Whose house? Yes the house of the Lord. Are we talking about when we die? We could be. But better still, we are talking about now.
In Psalm 84 we find that the sparrow finds a home, the swallow finds a nest to lay her young. We can be in God’s house in our very own home. It is how we look at things. Are we grateful that we have a door instead of wishing that we had a more beautiful door like the house down the street?
Do we go about our tasks with a light heart or do we grumble and spread gloom? Do we say, “No problem!” in a sincere way. Do we say, “That’s okay,” when the garbage truck driver accidentally lets our empty garbage bin fall on flowers we nurtured for weeks and they are finally blooming? Do we feel as if we are on the highway to Zion or facing the other direction toward a pen full of wolves? Happy are those indeed! No, indeed there is no happiness in the desert of our lives. We need to find a spring.
Not easy to do these days, especially in California. But, there is a spring waiting! It comes from God and it is in our hearts. It can make us new – a new creation! Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Christ died for this! Christ lived again for this! Paul says it in our reading from 2nd Corinthians today.
We are found! We are offered this new creation gift. Are we going to receive it? Think of the son who wandered in search of the good life and almost died of hunger and disappointment. Think of the sheep who almost fell out of sight and out of reach. Now think of the coin! I picture this coin as being especially significant. The scripture says that the coin is one of ten – one-tenth of what the person had. It is what belongs to God. We could say that the person lost what belongs to God. How much of our lives belong to God? The whole! Everything! When we turn our backs on God, when we sin, we are lost to God. When we repent, when we ask to be forgiven, we are found by God. Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sin in put away! (from Psalm 32)
When we dwell in God’s house, whether it is our own home on earth or whether it is in God’s heavenly house or whether we are leaving our home for any reason, we carry God’s house with us in our hearts. Our hearts are empty of sin and guilt; there is room for God’s dwelling in our hearts. It is our home. We are loved. We don’t need to read that or hear that, we can feel that.
We have come to know some characters who figured in the death of Jesus in our Wednesday evening dialogues. This coming Wednesday we will hear from the Disciple John. As we read the book of John in the New Testament, one of the four gospels, we find John saying over and over that he is the disciple most loved by Jesus. A bit haughty and sickening actually, but at the cross, some of Jesus’ last words are, “Son, behold thy mother. Mother, behold thy son.”
“And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” Jesus had verified John’s claims and provided a home for Mary, the woman who had carried him as a forming baby, the woman who stood at the cross watching her son be crucified. This woman who with Joseph had to retrace a days worth of steps to find their son teaching the teachers in the synagogue. This woman who had to hear her own son say that his ministry on earth had to come before family. There she was at the foot of the cross being found by her Son, being gifted of a home by her Son, the Son of God! A home. A home God provided.
Happy are those who are found! Happy are those who live in your house, O God !