This past week my wife Madelyn was part of a search party to recover the old dog owned by one of our neighbors. The dog just disappeared from our neighbor'...s front yard. Neighborhood children and adults have scoured the area, but the dog named Max has not be found.
The word "lost" is used to describe something or someone being destroyed. It is a terminal word which when finally pronounced marks the end of searching. Just so, we have many people in our world who have been labeled lost causes and placed in a category that means that they have ceased to exist or do not deserve further concern.
But in Jesus' view of reality, the word lost was not a terminal category, but a temporary state. He knew that in God no one is lost as human society thinks of lost. Love that overcomes being lost or dead is acted out in Jesus' stories and presses us to stop categorizing others as lost.
God is the Eternal Searcher for the lost. What we are asked to do is to rejoice when God reverses our sense of terminal loss, death, and destruction and join in
the party that celebrates the untiring, ongoing, undefeatable love that searches for all that is lost in us and in creation.
Or, would you rather grumble that God's way of searching-love has trumped our way of dismissing others and ourselves as "lost causes?"
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 welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So he told them this parable:
"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,
`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying,
`Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Here is another passage from Genesis that speaks of one who is lost in a particular way. Is Cain the lost sheep who is found?
3-5 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
6-7 God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”
8 Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.
9 God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
He said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?”
10-12 God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. You’ll farm this ground, but it will no longer give you its best. You’ll be a homeless wanderer on Earth.”
13-14 Cain said to God, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 God told him, “No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over.” God put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.
16 Cain left the presence of God and lived in No-Man’s-Land, east of Eden.
17-18 Cain slept with his wife. She conceived and had Enoch. He then built a city and named it after his son, Enoch.