Summary: Even us Christians lose our way; when that happens, the Savior, seeks us, finds us, and restores us.
Major Barb Sherer, a fellow Presbyterian minister and chaplain in the United States Army, was in Iraq during the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Moments before worshipers arrived for Sunday service, a fire broke out and destroyed the tent. By a miracle, no one was hurt.
Later Chaplain Sherer returned to the charred remains of the tent where a guard retrieved for her a cup of ashes to be used in her Ash Wednesday service. As she sifted through the ashes to prepare them for the service, she found a silver cross amongst the ashes. In an article which Guide Post Magazine published, the Chaplain shares her excitement over this serendipitous find and what it meant to her there in war-torn Iraq.
I appreciate the Chaplain’s excitement because I know personally the thrill of stumbling across unexpected treasure and I know the joy of finding something that has long been lost.
Guess who else is appreciative of these lost and found experiences of life? That is right; our Lord Jesus Christ. In the narrative we have before us, he tells three parables to illustrate the joy which rises when something lost is found.
The three parables (one right after another) may seem like overkill. But that is not the case. Jesus is making an very important point which demands repetition. As a carpenter it was the tap, tap, tap of the hammer which drove home the nail. Now Jesus drives home the message of joy with his parabolic hammer: tap, tap, tap; a lost and found sheep, a lost and found coin, a lost and found son.
Ministers and Sunday School teachers have applied these parables over the years to the salvation message. Over and over again the story is told about how heaven rejoices when an unbeliever is plucked from the fire of hell. This certainly is a legitimate use of these parables. Jesus is definitely involved in the saving business. But Jesus is also involved in the finding business, and I think we miss a great opportunity for instruction when we do not apply these parables to this very important aspect of Jesus’ ministry.
Close examination shows a legal relationship already exists between the seeker and the sought in each of these parables. The sheep already belongs to the shepherd, the coin already belongs to the woman. The son, already belongs to the father.
And guess what? You and I already belong to Jesus. Paul declares in Ephesians 1:4: “Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ.” Think about that. Before the worlds were made God had you and me picked out. He stamped his name on us.
1. EVEN CHRISTIANS GET LOST!
Perhaps you can now see the relevance of these parables for you and me. You and I are in these stories. In each case, we are the Lord’s treasure. In the words of a well beloved gospel song: “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity”. We are the Lord’s Treasure, we Christians; but even Christians can lose their way!
And this losing our way is usually not a one time deal. A while ago we sang the much loved song “Amazing Grace”. Verse one declares “I ONCE was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see." These thoughts are the perfect expression of my experience of God’s salvation. But they are not the perfect expression of my experience as a Christian pilgrim. As a Christian pilgrim, I must admit that I have been lost more than one time. And those of you who are willing to tell the truth about your journey will freely admit that you also have been lost more than once.
2. CHRISTIANS GET LOST WHEN THEY BECOME DISCONNECTED!
Getting lost...how does that happen? In the old testament lesson, an ax head gets lost because it flies off the handle. Has that ever happened to you? Speaking of flying off the handle, let me tell you a story:
Once there were two flies sitting in a kitchen. They looked down at the table and spotted a knife. On the handle of the knife was a tiny piece of baloney. The two flies excitedly flew down, landed on the knife handle, and ate the baloney. When they finished, they both flew off the knife handle and smashed into each other.”
What is the moral of that story? Don’t fly off the handle when you are full of baloney.
Putting aside the humor, flying off the handle is unfortunate whether you are full of baloney or not. The story of the ax head flying off the handle is a case in point. This event in II Samuel which took place when Elisha’s students were building a new dormitory, illustrates the danger of detachment. When the ax head becomes detached from the handle, it quickly gets lost; it sinks to the bottom of muddy Jordan and there it is good for nothing.