aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

"Boulder, boulder, on the ground, tell me something real profound."

This ain't the most profound exegesis I've ever done, but it ain't bad, either. It's tomorrow's sermon -- the first after returning from our trip to the UK, and (traditionally) the first of the new Conference year in the charge to which I have just been re-appointed.

Please forgive my idiosyncratic MS style -- I didn't clean it up from the preaching notes.

Lk 15:1-10

"Lost and Found"

I want to tell you a story from the trip the Venturers just returned from – but the story is not typical of the trip as a whole

The trip as a whole, well – let me give you, quickly, the good, the bad, and the ugly of it

The Good of our trip to the UK was all the cool places we went and all the nice people we met and all the challenges we overcame

We hiked three mountains in five days, explored two castles, ten churches (ruined or operational), several prehistoric monuments, went punting on a river, had Cornish cream tea, and a whole bunch of other really great moments

The Ugly of the trip was driving a 5-speed, manual transmission mini-van on the LEFT side of the road – in a country where many roads are so narrow that to say they HAVE a left side is a mere courtesy

And the Bad, for me, was losing my Roman coin – the one I bought in Bowness on Windermere

I had always wanted a Roman coin, and I was thrilled to finally find one

Meanwhile, shortly after arriving in London, I was sorting through the chaos in my daypack – trying to get ready for the trip home – when I discovered that my Roman coin was missing

I ransacked my luggage – nothing – it was just GONE

Complicating my feelings of shock and awfulness was the fact that the whole trip was probably about two days too long – we were doing what I have described as the All You Can Eat Buffet itinerary, and we were all exhausted

Now, disappointments come and go, and the money involved wasn't really huge, but somehow, I just crashed – I was depressed, and (unusual for me) homesick

I felt better the next morning – faced facts, said I'd get over it, got on with the next thing – but it continued to bug me

The only possibility was that I had hidden it so deep somewhere (to keep it safe) that even I cdn't now find it – a vain hope, but hope of a sort, I thought – and one which I wd have to get home to explore

Well, two days after getting home, I found it – secreted amidst the physicals and permission slips and stuff where it wd be safest – you know, among the papers that I'd never have to consult except in an emergency, so of course, I hadn't thought of checking them when I was looking for the coin in London

Ah, me – better late than never

But the whole experience made me think of J's parables of the lost things – esp. the lost coin

J tells 3 parables about lost things – about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and then – a lost son

The lost son is the story we call the Prodigal Son, and we don't have time to go into that today

The lost sheep also came to my mind on the trip – we saw a LOT of sheep, lemme tell ya, and at one time, I said to the crew –

we were way high up on some mountain, and there were sheep up there, roaming around in the mist, higher up than we were and way out on the crags

– and I said, if the Good Shepherd is willing to leave the 99 found sheep to come looking in a place like this for the sheep that is lost, then THAT sure tells you something about what kind of a shepherd he is

He must surely love us, for we get ourselves awful lost and in some terrible fixes – and he never gives up on us – he always comes looking for us

And you know how the sheep gets itself so lost? They just "nibble" their way lost

A sheep will go from blade of grass to blade of grass, with no more forethought than the next tasty tuft of green – and then they look up, and they're all alone on some wet and windy mountainside

– which doesn't bother them at first – sheep are hardy critters – but the time does come when it's nice to find the flock and return to the fold – and if you've nibbled yourself too far to find your fellows, then that's a lonely feeling indeed

I see a lot of folks like that – they've got their heads down, just going after the next thing they think they want – and when they look up, they wonder where the love is they thought wd be right there – where is God? And where is purpose for tomorrow?

Yeah, there's a lot of that going around

& the good news is that the Good Shepherd does come looking for us – and he will find us – and I pray that we'll trust him when he says, "follow me"

But there's something to be said about the Lost Coin, too

J said there once was a woman who had ten silver coins, and she lost one – so she turned the whole house upside-down, and cleaned and swept till she found it – and then she called all her friends over to rejoice with her

It helps to understand this story if you know that ten silver shekels was the basic dowry for a Jewish maiden in ancient times – so the woman who lost that coin wasn't just worried that she was missing a tenth of her cash-on-hand – she was facing the death of her marriage prospects and future happiness – everything depended upon her finding that coin to join the other nine

which explains why she was so happy when she found it, and why she called all her friends together to rejoice with her

And I thought to myself, Surely God knows where every lost coin is lying – there is no crack in the floor, no forgotten hidey-hole, no sofa cushions he can't immediately probe

How does the woman's LOOKING for that coin compare to God looking for us?

There's a mystery here – and you can't press some analogies too far, I guess – but it seems to me that God puts a lot of energy into looking for us when he knows where we are all the time

But then, WE don't know where we are – so we don't recognize him when he comes

WE'RE not ready to be found

But you know, J said all the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents – when someone lost allows himself to be found and be brought back to where he or she belongs

And if the angels are happy over each lost sheep, lost coin, lost child that is found, imagine the joy of God and the pride of Christ in finding us and bringing us back

He keeps turning things over until we are found for sure – long after we would have given up, if we were the ones looking – long after we have given up on being found – but he doesn't give up

When I got home, Deanne said that Sassafras (our dog) had finally just given up that day. She'd been living in hope, then hope-against-hope, that we'd come home each day, I guess – and Wednesday, she just slumped – didn't want to go out, lay around depressed

– AND THEN WE CAME HOME – and everything was okay again in her little world

Which made me think how often I have given up on God ever coming to find me in whatever sitz I was languishing – but he always comes – he never gives up – the morning will come, even to those who have given up hoping for it

this is the promise of God

And this is what we are all about

Nowadays, the official start of the Annual Conference year is July 1, but I'm still used to starting a new Conf. Year in mid-June, so let me talk about the year ahead that we face together

As we start a new Conference Year, I think it wd behove us to remember the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin

For this is what the church is about

Our job is to find that which is lost – or, at least, to help God do it – and to rejoice with those who have been found – and to give hope to those who are finding it hard to believe that the morning will come and that God will be faithful to his promises

The mission of the church is not to make those who are found COMFORTABLE – or SECURE

the mission of the church is not to put seats in the seats with brilliant PERFORMANCES

the mission of the church is not about filling slots in the org chart or trying to get some sucker to be Chair of the committee nobody wants to be on

In one of our old Books of Discipline, it was said that one of the signs of a True Church is its ability to seek and save the lost

– which is why we don't get hung up on apostolic succession or right theory of church governance or even insist that everybody sign on to an exacting statement of theological principles –

what we care about is that those who are lost and hungry and cold – hungry for righteousness and dying for the warmth of God's love – should be found – and fed – and warmed at our fire

and so long as somebody is being found and fed and warmed, then we are a success

the NUMBER Of people we are succeeding with is up to God – sometimes, he sends us many who are ready to be found, and sometimes, we have to go looking extra hard

but we dare not lose our focus

all other things – including attendance and finances and leadership – are only a means toward that end

toward the joy of finding

toward the joy of being found

toward the love that we have to share

toward God

As we enter a new year in ministry together, let's remember this lesson, and not get distracted from the basic realities of LOST and FOUND

and let us remember God's faithfulness, as Dame Julian of Norwich – a 14th Century English mystic – put it,

For, "All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well."

Tags: sermons

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