Summary: We are unhappy if we lose something precious and really glad when we find it again. God is sad when we wander away from him, but really happy when we let him lead us home again.

I really enjoy doing jigsaws – when I get the time, that is.

Does anyone else here like jigsaws?

What’s the biggest jigsaw you’ve ever done?

The biggest one I’ve ever done is 1000 pieces. Just imagine you’d spent days and days doing a 1000 piece jigsaw and just when you thought you would finally finish it, you found there was a piece missing. How would you feel?

It wouldn’t matter that 999 pieces were perfectly in place, you’d still notice the piece that was missing, wouldn’t you, because the fact that that piece was missing would spoil the whole picture.

Today’s Gospel reading is about lost things.

Who has lost something really important or precious to them?

How did you feel?

Did you look for it?

Did you find it again?

How did that make you feel?

I’d like to tell you a true story about something that happened to me recently.

Most people have probably noticed that I like earrings. I have more than 80 different pairs, but the ones I’m wearing today are some of my favourite ones. A few weeks ago I was feeling a bid down in the dumps – I don’t know why – I just was. I got up that morning and put these earrings in. I went up to the Vicarage for a meeting, I went home, did some housework, hand some lunch, parked in the Comrades Club car park and went across the road to the Library, and then went to pick my daughter, Rachel, up because we were going to take our dogs to Colemere for a walk.

While I was driving to Colemere, I noticed that one of my earrings was missing. I felt pretty fed up, but I was still hopeful that I’d dropped it at home and would quickly find it again, so I didn’t bother looking for it anywhere else that day.

When I got home, I looked inside the car, on the driveway and in the house but to no avail – I couldn’t see it anywhere. By now I was getting really fed up. The next day at church I mentioned to Philip that I had lost the earring and asked him to keep it for me if he found it at the Vicarage.

After lunch, I took my dog out again and on the way back I thought about parking in the Comrades Club car park and retracing my steps to see if I could find my earring. I almost didn’t go, because I thought it unlikely that I would find it and anyway they’re made of glass so would be easily crushed if a car ran over it. But in the end I did go and decided that I would park as near as I could to where I’d been the day before and retrace my steps across to the Library. As luck would have it, I was able to park in exactly the same place as I had the day before and when I opened the car door, there was my earring lying on white line between the parking spaces.

I felt really happy, and my previous fed up mood just melted away. It didn’t matter that I had lots of other earrings at home, I was still just so pleased to have found this one.

God knows, too, the joy of finding things that have got lost. Of course, God loves those who never stray away, but in his heart there is immense joy when a lost one is found and comes home.

All of us wander away from God at times. We all get lost in the desert even when we’re part of the fold. We all need someone out there, willing to go and look for us and bring us safely home. God loves each of us enough to do that. To go back to the jigsaw analogy, the picture cannot be truly complete unless every single piece is in place. It doesn’t matter if you feel you are a piece full of intricate detail right in the centre of the puzzle, or a plain old piece of sky in the top right hand corner - if you’re not there you’ll be missed.

God loves each one of us unconditionally and we each have a unique part of play in his plan. When we become lost he seeks us out to bring us home, not to condemnation and punishment but to welcome and joy.

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