Summary: The Father invites us to join Him in seeking and caring for the lost.
Introduction: (The lights go out…so does the preacher and worship leader, for a minute, until people begin to look around uncomfortably. Then, the worship leader welcomes the crowd and asks them to turn to Lk 15:1. Then, he begins to read…in Spanish…something that isn’t Lk 15. After a minute, he sits down. Preacher gets up)
Feeling a little lost?
Most everyone here this morning can suddenly relate to how left out or lost it feels when you’re not sure what’s going on around you – like when the lights are out and you’re not sure what’s supposed to be going on next. Or, like when someone gets up to read, and it’s in a language you most likely don’t understand.
That feeling is probably what the average Spanish-speaking person would get if they were to come and visit us here. I imagine it’s the feeling a lot of Spanish-speaking people in our area feel as they try to make a life here. I could just stop here and speak about that growing need for the next 20 minutes, but that’s not all I want to address this morning.
Instead, I want you to think for a minute: Have you ever felt lost like that?
I once was lost – in a manner of speaking. I remember that feeling of lostness that comes with a language and culture barrier. I was in India, on the other side of the world. Our short-term evangelistic team had over 15 members. It helped, being part of a large group. Then we split up. One group went to Naudapeta a few hours away from the rest. The hotel was like something in an Indiana Jones movie, complete with lizards on the walls. Fortunately, I had Zane Darnell along to give me important safety tips – like, “Don’t ever drink the water.” And, “When you go out preaching in the villages, just make sure you get back to the hotel before dark. That’s when the snakes come out.” Thanks, Zane! This was also a country where, less than 2 years before, missionaries were being harassed and killed by radical Hindus. This was all rolling around in my mind my first day out as a local preacher, my translator, a driver and I all drove a couple of hours away to villages way off the beaten trail. At one point, there was some sort of toll gate, and the guard kind of eyed me in the back of the car. Boy, was I glad there was a guy there who spoke English who could explain it all to me! We passed on through. After a day’s preaching in the villages, it was time to go. It was then that I learned from my translator that he and the preacher were going to stay up north, and that I was to go back to Naudapeta alone with the driver – a Hindu who spoke no English. At least it wasn’t dark and we were headed to home base. We didn’t speak much. We couldn’t understand each other. After an hour or so we arrived at the toll gate. The guard said something to the driver, the driver said something to the guard, and pretty soon they were yelling at each other. He wasn’t going to let us through. Next thing I know, we’re turned around, and headed all the way back. By this time, it’s getting dark, and my driver is taking the more scenic route back to Naudapeta. For the next couple of hours, I was lost, somewhere in India, far from anyone I knew, with no one around me who even spoke my language. It was a great relief just to get back to my Indiana Jones hotel. Not a great feeling, feeling lost.
I once was lost…So was a man named Zacchaeus. Only, he wasn’t somewhere where he didn’t understand the language or culture. Zacchaeus was lost in his own home. He was lost in life – unable to sort through what really mattered, where he needed to be headed, and how it was all going to turn out. He at least realized he was lost, and that’s why he was seeking to hear from Jesus. And hear from Jesus he did. It changed his whole life, and all the things he’d done wrong before, he suddenly wanted to make right.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a ’sinner.’" But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."