Sermon: Lost and found.
This story takes place in the Ocean. On an ocean liner headed to the Middle East. Nine hundred miles out to sea a sail was suddenly sighted on the horizon. Nothing else but sea, water and sky – and that little speck of a sail far far away. As the big Ocean Liner drew closer, the passengers all saw that the ship, or rather a small boat flying a Turkish Flag – had run up a distress signal and other flags asking for its position at sea. They were lost! Through a faulty chronometer or wrong navigation, the small boat had become lost. For nearly an hour the big ocean liner circled the little boat, giving its crew correct latitude and longitude. Naturally there was a great deal of interest in all the proceeding among the passengers of the liner. A young boy, who was standing on the deck and watching all that was taking place remarked aloud to himself - "It's a big ocean to be lost in."
It is a big world to be lost in, too. And we do get lost....in oceans, in books, in lives, in problems, in choices, in relationships, in families, in faith.
As a Danish Poet and Theologian once said: “God our ship is small, and your ocean is big.” And sometimes we truly need a bigger ship or a better captain to circle our little boat and guides us, give us directions and courage to continue.
Todays Gospel from Luke is truly from the Lost and Found chapter. The Gospel begins with these words: Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcome sinner and eats with them." (Luke 15:1-2)
That is the framework for all that follows in chapter fifteen – the Lost and Found Chapter: the story of a shepherd and his sheep, of a widow and her coins, of a man and his two sons.
Stories about how we get lost, going our own ways, going astray, led astray – only to be found by the good shepherd.
Stories about how we can lose sight and possessions of our beloved belongings and our treasured treasures, and how we franticly searched and look, in every nook, in every corner, under every pillow and in every pocket. And when we finally find the lost item again: we leap of joy and sigh of relief.
Stories about sons and daughters, who can get lost in families and relations, in dreaded responsibility and dreamed freedom. About sons and daughters, mother and fathers, who get lost and lose sight of each other. Parents who do not recognize the differences in their children; children who do not recognize the deep love in the daily upbringing and chores.
It is indeed a big world, a big ocean, to get lost in.
The Lost and Found theme is not only a human theme, but a Christian theme. Not only in the Gospel according to Luke, we read these stories about lost and found sheep, coins and sons. Throughout the entire bible are stories.
The Creation story about Adam and Eve, is fundamentally the story about the first human getting lost in life and his relation to God. And in Christian Theology Jesus Christ is called the second Adam who can find the lost and lead us back to God again. Open the gates of Heaven again and lead us home.
The story about Noah – is the story about a lost world of greed, evil and despair – the wonderful world of God could only be found again through cleaning and washing the world clean in order to find a new beginning and a new world.
The story about Abraham and Sara is the story about an old man and an old woman finally finding their joy of life, when they are blessed with his son Isaac.
The story about Moses – is also a story about being lost and found. At his birth he is placed in a basket on the Nile, lost on the big River only to be found by the daughter of Pharaoh. Later in life, Moses gets lost in his bad temper, in his bad decisions – and Moses gets lost with his people out in the desert. But through persistence, faith courage and a divine presence, not only Moses but also his people find their way to the promised land.
Paul, in his letter to Timothy, writes about being lost and being found too. That the most unworthy man, Paul, who once when he was called Saul, persecuted the church until his eyes were opened and he found his way. Even to someone like him, Paul writes, mercy is shown as a great witness to the grace of God. That amazing grace….
As I have stated before, I an avid reader. And sometimes I do get lost in books. One book that I had a hard time letting go and putting down after finishing, was the masterpiece of Donna Tartt “The Gold Finch.” In fact, I have picked up the book many times after finishing, just to read the last chapter again.
This marvelous book was made into a movie that just opened Friday, and Soren and I watched it in Seattle. It was a wonderful moving movie, with the same qualities as the book: profound sadness, human despair, longing love, beautiful thoughts, heartbreaking ache and deep wisdom.
“The Goldfinch” is about a boy. A lost boy. Theo Decker is a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, who miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a wealthy Park Avenue family. He is bewildered by his strange new home and heartbreakingly tormented by his longing for his mother – and he clings to the only thing that truly reminds him of her: a small mysterious captivating painting of a Gold Finch. We follow the captivating, heartbreaking story of Theo into adulthood as a truly lost boy and young man. The last chapter is an amazing homage to life, love and art –despite all the heartache and darkness. Theo Decker writes:
“ Between reality on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exist, al magic and all love……..
The painting has also taught me that w can peak to each other across time. And I feel I have something very serious and urgent to say to you, my nonexistent reader, and I feel I should say it as urgently as if I were standing in the room with you. That life – whatever else it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That nature (meaning death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. “
Even if we are lost, we can be found. And we can find meaning, direction, love and hope. If we keep our eyes and hearts closed, we are lost and get lost. If we keep our eyes and hearts open, we might be found, and we might find.
Take a moment and think about the last time you were lost. In traffic, in your life, in your relations, in despair, on the big ocean of life.
Take a moment and think about how you found your way back? Did someone find you? Did God find you and encourage you as his beloved blessed child to live and wade straight through life with eyes and hearts open?
Take a moment and think about the last time that you found someone that needed to be found, to be seen, to be loved and to be guided?
Lost and found. To be found and to find. This is the story of our lives.
There is a wonderful story about the late author Maya Angelou. About finding her way and being found.
Maya Angelou was an active member of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco before her death. She wrote that when she first came to San Francisco as a young woman she became sophisticated. She said that was what you were supposed to do when you go to San Francisco, you become sophisticated. And for that reason, she said she became agnostic. She thought the two went together. She said that it wasn't that she stopped believing in God, just that God no longer frequented the neighborhoods that she frequented.
She was taking voice lessons at the time. Her teacher gave her an exercise where she was to read out of some religious pamphlet. The reading ended with these words: "God loves me." She finished the reading, put the pamphlet down. The teacher said, "I want you to read that last sentence again." So, she picked it up, read it again, this time somewhat sarcastically, then put it down again. The teacher said, "Read it again." She read it again. Then she described what happened.
“After about the seventh repetition I began to sense there might be some truth in this statement. That there was a possibility that God really loves me, Maya Angelou. I suddenly began to cry at the grandness of it all. I knew if God loved me, I could do wonderful things. I could do great things. I could learn anything. I could achieve anything. For what could stand against me with God, since one person, any person, with God form a majority now."
Oh, that amazing grace that saves us and gives us strength and courage to keep on searching and living.