Summary: God searches for us until he "finds" us, and welcomes us into his arms when we return to him.
Luke 15:1-32 "Lost and Found"
There are times in our lives when we may doubt God's love for us. These times could range from receiving a traffic ticket to suffering from the flu, from losing your job to being told you have a serious illness, and everything in between. We may want, at times, to scream at God, "With friends like you, who needs enemies." We constantly want to be assured of God's love.
In many ways, we are like our children. Remember coming up to your parents--trying to persuade them to do something against their better judgement--and hitting them with that challenge, "If you really love me ..."
We want love not only to be verbalized, but also exhibited by action. Today I have the privilege of telling you that, "Indeed, God does loves you, AND he shows that love to you!" The three "Parables of the Lost"--a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two lost sons--vividly demonstrate God's love for us.
Every one of us has lost, or misplaced, something that was precious to us. Do you remember the deep sense of loss (and panic) that flooded over you? Do you recall what you did trying to find the lost item?
The shepherd, the woman, and the father, act as if they have lost something very precious to them. The shepherd leaves the flock in order to search for the lost lamb. The woman mounts a systematic cleaning of her home, and the father runs to his wayward son. The main characters of these parables do outlandish things, because what was lost was was so very precious to them.
Do you remember the Sunday School song, "Jesus Loves the Little Children." It might be a good idea for us to sing this song to ourselves in order to remind us of how much God loves us. God love us more than we can imagine. God loves us more than we love ourselves.
When we look at ourselves there are always somethings that we don't like. We may not like some of our looks, or our limitations. We may not like our failings, and we are not comfortable with the "dark side" of ourselves. When God looks at us God sees his creation, his children, people with whom God is head over heals in love.
The shepherd and the woman both started a search. The shepherd did not wait for the lamb to return to the flock. He was what we call "proactive." The woman was not patient enough to simply wait for the lost coin to turn up. Instead, she turned her house upside down looking for her lost coin.
Scripture tells us how we have become lost. We have been separated from God, and our relationship with God has been broken. God doesn't wait for us to turn to him. Instead, God is proactive. He sent his son. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Often we can't see the Holy Spirit moving in our lives. When we look back on our lives, we can see God's hand upon us. The Spirit nudged us one way, and then enticed us at another time. We met the people who touched our lives with God's grace and love. We experienced circumstances and events that drew us nearer to the God who loves us. God was patient and relentless is his search to bring us into a relationship with him.
Such action is motivated solely by love.
When the lost is found, it is party time. The shepherd calls his friends together and invites them to rejoice with him. The woman brings her friends and neighbors together for a party, after she found the coin. The father runs to the son (a very undignified action) and throws a party--a fatted calf size party.
It is easy to imagine God and the heavenly host rejoicing at the baptism of a new family member.
Christians have made Holy Communion a rather solemn affair. I think, though, with a little imagination, you can picture God welcoming us to his table. "Let's celebrate," he says. "Let's rejoice at the relationship that we have with each other. Let's each and drink and allow the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to be real in our lives.
God loves us. There can be no doubt about that. It is something, though, of which we occasionally need to be reminded, and it is the good news that we can share with those around us.