The parables today talk about a lost sheep and a lost coin. You may be familiar with these stories about a sheep and a coin that are lost and how they are about how God will go to any lengths to find his children. I have to personally connect with a text so that the grace notes become real to me so as I thought about being lost, three things came to mind:
- This week, my husband, Stuart, lost his phone. We walked around the house calling and listening, calling and listening to no avail. Then I remembered that I had the app, FindMyPhone. Within minutes we were looking at a Google Earth photo of his phone (a green dot actually) sitting in his car in the driveway. It occurred to me that if Google Earth can find a phone, surely God can find us no matter where we are.
- The TV drama series Lost was about 48 passengers in a terrible plane crash somewhere in the South Pacific, realizing that they were not only physically lost but spiritually lost and emotionally haunted by their own lives. The show epitomizes how we can be lost in many ways. The dictionary definition of lost is ‘unable to find one’s way.’ This is an apt description of the this show’s description of the human condition.
- I am also feeling a bit lost as I navigate the legal, financial and sibling world in settling my Mother’s estate. It is not something I have done before and truly hope never to do again. Each day brings a new challenge but also an unexpected awareness of the value of my Mother’s life. I thought I knew her, but am realizing that there were many parts of her that were a mystery to me. Lost can be a season of your life while your perspective shifts.
And there are many forms of lostness.
There is the lost feeling when you are trying to make a decision or take an action. We want to make a perfect decision with no fall out, which can leave us feeling unmoored. “What am I supposed to do? What would be the right thing to do?”
There is the lost feeling when you truly do not know what to do. Someone has been hurt, is sick, has died or is estranged. “Where to go? What to do? Who to call?”
There is the lostness of getting what you want and having it not satisfy. “I thought that would make me happy but it must be something else. What could it be?”
Good things can also make us feel lost—like going to college or grad school, getting married or having a baby. “This should come naturally to me and it doesn’t! Everyone else seems to get it but me! What am I doing wrong?”
There is the lostness of loneliness. “Who can I count on? Who cares about me? What will happen to me? Will I always be alone?”
There is the lostness of aging, retirement and facing death. “What will become of me? How will I know what is happening to me? Wht do I do now?”
There is the deep lostness of addiction- whether to working, or a substance, that can lead one into deep valleys and dark woods.
Theologian Karoline Lewis writes, “[There] is the kind of lostness that has been imposed on you—that is, by others. Your own sense of unworthiness has been affirmed by those around you, by society, by systemic sin that has told you, time and time again, you are best swept under the rug, you deserve to be overlooked. It doesn’t take much effort to see the lost in our world, the lost we ignore.”
These parables are for those who have felt the losing, the lostness, the leastness and the littleness of life. Not specifically today or this week, but in the moments, hours, days and nights of your lifetime. Your bootstraps might have broken, your best friend was lowered into a grave or sent to prison, your powerlessness over your addiction smacked you in the face, or your ‘overcome’ got overwhelmed by a break up, a break down, or crack down. You found yourself reaching for comfort in earthly things that didn’t last, couldn’t keep up with your need for understanding and love.
David Lose addressed this when he writes, “In the cross of Christ we recognize our penchant always to reject God’s overtures to us and are compelled to admit our absolute inability to save ourselves, and in that recognition we, who would always be in control of our destiny, die.”
Our lostness can also be like that of the sheep, where we run away and get caught in the briars of life or like the coin where we hide in the darkness of shame or obstinacy. David Brooks, in his book The Second Mountain, talks about a fear of found-ness in the midst of lostness. The Anglican priest and theologian John Stott asked him to lunch, and Brooks thought they were going to talk about Stott. But Stott was only interested in Brooks. “He told me he sensed something in me, some motion toward God…I was unnerved. If the hound of heaven was nipping at my heels, that was either something I did not feel or a truth I did not want to face. I must have known unconsciously how much disruption to my life that would lead to. I shut the door and blocked out the light.”
Brooks goes on to say that he was not successful in blocking out the light. “[O]ther cracks began to appear—from time to time at first and then in a steady pour. Moments of spiritual transcendence came to me as mesmerizing beauty. Chartres Cathedral casts a spell every time I visit, like appoint of contact between our world and and that of some other unseen one.” Then came his divorce and the bottoming out of that experience. He says that, “at first you want to grip the steering wheel of life tighter, trying to redirect life, but you get defeated and just let go of the wheel.” Through and after the pain, there were, what Brooks calls, “stray moments of porousness.” And adds, “I was going about my normal every day life when suddenly, for reasons I don’t understand, some mystical intrusion pierced through, hinting at a deeper reality.”
Brooks is exposing an experience of faith. Christ’s ability to break through our defenses is stronger than our ability to hide. Jesus was sweeping the house, relentlessly pursuing the coin that was imprinted with David Brooks. He was pushing aside the low branches and thick brambles to find His lost sheep, like he does for you and me. “In the resurrection, we perceive that God’s grace is stronger than our sinfulness and so can rest confident that God has acted to save us and all the world, and in hearing this word of grace we come alive again and anew in Christ.” (Lose)
You may be wondering, “How would I know if Jesus was looking for me? Don’t I have to do something so that he would be looking for me? Become some sort of religious sheep to be in the fold?” Robert Capon says memorably, “We haven’t got a card in our hand that can take even a single trick against God…He will come into the world’s sins with no lists to check, no tests to grade, no debts to collect, no scores to settle…Jesus’ program remains firm. He saves losers and only losers. He raises the dead and only the dead. He rejoices more over the last, least and the little than over all the winners in the world. That alone is what this losing race of ours needs to hear, even though it can’t stand the thought of it.” Romans 5:8 reminds us that, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If you are sinner, which is someone who is lost, then you have been saved already on the cross, without your permission, but with great love for you.
This is Jesus Christ’s gospel of death and resurrection, seeing the world’s ways of winning as mirages. We are all lost but Jesus Christ is the Finder of the lost. You are being found right where you sit in the pew, or your house, or wandering in the dark woods like the lamb or hiding in the dark corner like a lost coin. God rejoices in rescuing you from the deadness of loneliness, self-centeredness, fear and the pain of life of your shipwreck island. You are not in charge—God is. This truth will set you free. Amen