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  • Jack and Ssuan Blalock

Luke 15: 1-10              “Lost and Found”                 September 18, 2016

 

Notice Jesus is speaking to both religious leaders and tax collectors – the found and the lost. But, in the end, it is about how God wants them all together – all the sheep and all the coins – when we are all in hand of God, everything is good. Let us listen for the Word of God…

 

When I was in college I worked as a camp counselor for kids in the summer. One of the games we played the first week of camp was called the Counselor Hunt. The camp counselors would be given five minutes to go hide on the camp grounds and then the campers would come look for us. Now, it was relatively easy to hide from the kids on an 117 acre camp. I climbed about 25 feet up a pine tree and smiled as I watched the kids walking underneath me – looking and looking and never finding. At first I thought this was pretty neat but, after awhile I kind of wanted to be found, you know?

Then a bell would ring and all of us would gather in the ball field. I thought since I hadn’t been found I would win, but actually I lost. The winner was the counselor who was found FIRST. See, he got it, I didn’t. I was so used to thinking how to win in the normal world, I didn’t know how to win in the kingdom world. In the kingdom, we win when  we step out of hiding and allow others and God to find us

We hide from each other, don’t we? We don’t want people to know the real us. We try to hide our fears from others. We are afraid to tell the truth. We do our best to pretend to be what we think people want us to be. Heaven forbid people know the real us, for if they did, then they would hide from us? Or so, we think, so we put up our walls and push people back.

Likewise, we do the same with God.

We think of God as hiding from us, but it could be we are hiding from God? God is the great invisible One – the unseen, the mysterious power or person – which can only be found if God chooses to and that is rare – or so we think.

 But, as much as it may be true God is veiled and out of sight, it is also more true, that God wants to be found and, in fact, God is actually looking for us.

Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden? Right after Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing they did was try to hide from God. God was’t hiding Adam and Eve were the ones who snuck away. And it was God who came looking.

We have been hiding ever since.

If we are anything like Adam and Eve – which, of course, we are - we have to ask ourselves, “How are we hiding from God?”

We hide from God by making sure we are busy all the time.

We hide ourselves from God by harboring resentments towards one another.

We hide from God when we allow the worries of the moment to keep us from praying. Not praying to God or even stopping to listen for God, when we are in need, or afraid, or worried, is like not taking time to eat because we are hungry. The one thing which would satisfy our longing for some sort of peace is the one thing we say we don’t have time to do.   But, when we do stop and turn towards God,  we realize God has been looking for us all along.

 At the turn of the 20th century, the writer Francis Thompson published a poem called the “Hound of Heaven,” relentlessly pursuing him, tracking him down:

 

I fled Him, down the night and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinth ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot precipitated,

Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after...[1]

Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
I am He whom thou seekest.
Thou drawest Love from thee who drawest Me.

Thompson realized it wasn’t God who was hiding – he was hiding from God. 

 

Imagine how we would see our relationship with God differently if we believed God was trying to find us?

Imagine stopping and listening for God as we would listen to a waterfall or how we would listen for the voice of our child. Imagine paying attention for God like we do the weather or bank account or any of the other glittering things which catch our eyes.

Imagine what it would be like if we really believed God is speaking – right now – later today – tomorrow at work – imagine what it would be like to really anticipate the sound of God in our lives?

The book of James says, God will draw near to us if we draw near to him. God is the one who stands at the door and knocks. God is like the father who runs to embrace the lost son even when he is far away.

 

In the passage from Luke today, the moral of the story is not about how the lost sheep or lost coin repented. The story about the lengths God will go to find us – even if we are lost and hiding.

In the first parable a shepherd leaves 99 to look for one lost sheep.  In the second parable, a woman turns her house upsidedown looking for a coin.  In both examples someone doing far more than most of us would do or even should do.

I mean if we lost one sheep, would we leave the 99 to go looking for it? We might, if this one sheep was really special to us, but would we risk the 99 for the one? Imagine if we were with our 9 grandchildren in a park – just ourself – and one ran away. Would we leave the 8 and risk losing them to find the one – maybe, probably – not an easy decision.

Notice what Luke says, the shepherd leaves the 99 “in the wilderness” - he didn’t leave the 99 in a pen or in a barn, he left them in the wilderness where there is danger of wolves and cliffs and even more sheep who could wander off.  He might come back and find 99 lost sheep.

Same deal with the woman and the coin. Would we tear apart our house looking for a $20 bill – well, we might, right? But if we found it, would we throw a party to celebrate finding $20, well, probably not.

Notice, neither the lost sheep or the coin do anything other than get lost, right? So, the story may be about they – put in you or I – get lost – but the real moral of the story, is about the Hound of Heaven who is sniffing us out right now. The truth is, we would seek out that lamb if we really loved it and we would search for that coin if it was given to us by our great-grandfather. Somethings may only be valuable to the owner. It would seem we are just that valuable to God. If we feel lost that may be good news – it may mean you will feel God tugging on you at any moment!

 

Years ago I happened to come upon Billy Graham preaching on TV. He was leading one of his well-known revivals. At one point in his sermon he peered out into the crowd of thousands and said, “God knows there is one person out there who needs to hear this message tonight. One of you has been struggling. God has been trying to reach you and now is your chance. All of us are here because God wants to bless you.”

As he said that I thought well that is a crazy thought? The idea that this whole event – this one night - God would go through the effort to reach one person. God would rent a football stadium, arrange for roadies to set up chairs and tables, draw in 40,000 people all so ONE person would hear a message from God? Crazy idea, that God would go through all that effort for ONE person?

But, then again, if what Jesus has to say about God is true, that is exactly what God would do.

 

Someone once said, “If it is by grace that we are saved, it is by grace too that we are lost.” Because if we know we are lost then we can know what it is like to be found. The repentance Jesus is calling for is to realize our hiding and lostness, and trust God is hounding us.

 

          TO GOD BE THE GLORY. FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.

 
 

[1] Constance and Daniel Pollock, Editors. The Book of Uncommon Prayer. (Dallas: Word, 1996),153.

 

 

*************************************************

Prayer in Response to Gun Tragedies

God of mercy, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance, in the midst of unfolding violence and the aftermath of terror and loss, we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.

In these days of fearful danger and division, we need to believe somehow that your kingdom of peace in which all nations and tribes and languages dwell together in peace is still a possibility.

Give us hope and courage that we may not yield our humanity to fear.., even in these endless days of dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death. We pray for neighbors in Orlando, Minneapolis, and Dallas who have been violently assaulted, their lives cut off without mercy.

We often feel like we are hostages to fear, caught in an escalating cycle of violence whose source is evasive and whose end cannot be seen.

We open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope: that those who have been spared as well as those whose lives are changed forever may find strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come. We give thanks for strangers who comfort the wounded and first responders who run toward the sound of gunfire and danger..

We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost and maimed, in body or spirit.

O Lord, we pray for that time when the lion and the lamb will dwell together, and terror will not hold sway over our common life.

In these days of sorrow, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ, our Healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.

Pastor Steve

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“A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH”

The Presbyterian Church was an unexpected offspring of a religious movement called “The Reformation.”  Two of the leading Reformers of the time, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564), had no intention of forming a new church, at least not initially.  Their desire was to reform the present day Catholic Church, to purge the Church of corruptions and set it more in line with the traditions and theology of Scripture and of the early church.  The Reformers became known as “Protestants” because their requests for change sounded more and more like protests.

The Presbyterian Church is one of several churches that can trace their origins to the Reformation.  Presbyterians get their name from the Greek word “presbuteros” which means “elder.”  The term refers to the system, in apostolic times, of choosing leaders from among the wisest members of the church.  A prominent doctrine of the Reformation was “the priesthood of all believers.”  Reformed churches designed themselves in ways that gave more power to the congregation.  The Presbyterians established a representative system where elders, presbyters and commissioners were elected.

The French organized the first congregation in 1555 and the French Huguenots were one of the first Presbyterians to reach America, followed closely by the English, Dutch, German, Irish and Scottish.  In 1706 the first American presbytery was formed in Philadelphia and soon after the Synod of Philadelphia in 1716.  1789 marked the First General Assembly in Philadelphia.

The Church grew and diversified as it headed westward.  By 1800 there were 20,000 members.  In another thirty-seven years, there were 220,000.  With the growth in numbers came an increase of conflict, separation and sometimes reunion.  “Old School” and “New School” divisions plagued Presbyterians for years.  The most infamous of issues was slavery.  The Civil War severely divided the Church.

The next 120 years saw movements toward reunification.  In 1958 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and the United Presbyterian Church of North America merged to form the Presbyterian Church in the United States of American (UPCUSA).  In 1983 the two largest Presbyterian Churches united at the Atlanta General Assembly (G.A.): the southern-based Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) and the northern-based (UPCUSA).  In 1985 the G.A. approved a seal for the new Church. There are some powerful images in the symbol which reveal what is important to us as Presbyterians. Today there are about 2,000,000 members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the largest of the mainline Presbyterian denominations.

“Unexpected” may seem like a good way to describe the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church.  But for Presbyterians it has always been the “providence of God.”

Together in Christ,

Stephen

 
 
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