Summary: People matter to God!
Title: Who’s Missing and Does It Matter?
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Thesis: People matter to God
Just south of here there is a $3.25 million project to do some renovating of Berkley Park. In order to do those projects it was necessary to drain Berkeley Lake and it was the draining of Berkeley Lake that prompted an article in the Denver Post: As Berkeley Lake in Denver Drains, Treasure Hunters Scour What’s Unveiled. The drained lake bottom is visibly “littered with rusted cans, broken bottles, driftwood and lots of freshly dug holes.”
Area treasure hunters have waited for 35 years (since 1976) for the chance to see what has been lost on the bottom of Berkeley Lake. One treasurer hunter reported using his metal detector to unearth “13 rings, a buffalo nickel, a silver mercury dime and lots of wheat pennies” in just a few hours one recent Thursday morning. (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_18761039)
I doubt that many people have lamented the loss of a rusty old can or broken bottle but those who lost their wedding rings while swimming in Berkeley Lake were undoubtedly saddened when they discovered their loss.
Things that go missing matter to us.
I. Missing things matter
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and loses one of them… Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one…” Luke 15:4 and 8
In these two parables Jesus identifies two characters that experienced a loss. One is a sheep herder and the other a homemaker. The sheep herder lost a sheep and the homemaker lost a silver coin. The sheep was important to the sheep herder and the silver coin was important to the homemaker.
In London there is an official governmental office for lost and found items. It is the London Transports “Lost Property Office.” It is located on the side of the Baker’s Street Station, just across the street from the fictitious residence of Sherlock Holmes. It has been there since 1933 and it is where all the lost items found on or in any of London’s transportation systems… subways, buses, cabs, etc., are placed to be reclaimed. Every year between 150,000 and 200,000 items are found and turned in to the LPO where officials attempt to locate owners and return their lost items.
Every year people lose wheelchairs, false teeth, watches, backpacks and lunch pails, umbrellas, cell phones, and what have you… between 2009 and 2010 38,000 books, 29,000 bags and 28,000 pieces of clothing were turned in. Oddities found and turned in included urns with human remains, a suitcase full of money, a human skull and a lawnmower.
We’ve all lost things. And while some losses are inconsequential, others are of consequence. Some of our losses are of actual monetary consequence and others losses are of sentimental consequence. And those things that are of consequence matter.
In our story today two things mattered, a lost sheep and a lost coin.
A. The lost sheep mattered
“Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4
The lost sheep represents 1/100th or 1% of the shepherd’s flock. The wandering off of one sheep does not seem like much when he has 99 sheep remaining in his flock. However the lost sheep was so important to the man that he left the 99 remaining sheep in the open country and went looking for the lost sheep.
For three years running Bonnie and I have made a fall day-trip out to the Flat Tops to cruise the Flat Tops Scenic Byway between Yampa and Meeker during Aspen season. Three years running we have failed to find the Scenic Byway out of Yampa… but we always have fun looking for it and often find ourselves at the end of a miles long trail that dead-ends in a rancher’s front yard. I just checked the web site for directions to the Scenic Byway Trail and found that “Directions to the Trail are Unavailable at this Time.”
But to the point… one year on our return we found ourselves driving through sheep herding country. There were thousands of sheep being moved. I was really fascinated because I had read an article in the Denver Post about how western Colorado ranchers were hiring Peruvian descendants from the ancient Incans as “guest workers” to shepherd their flocks. (This is a labor force that is essential to the sheep ranching industry and no one does it better than the Peruvian shepherds.)
And there they were… Peruvian shepherds working the sheep. Huge corrals. A dozen of the 1950’s vintage shepherd’s camper wagons. Sheep too many to count… there were so many sheep that one would wonder how one might be missed. But a greater fear in the ranching community is that a shepherd will desert their flock leaving hundreds of sheep abandoned and unprotected in the Colorado open country.