Lost and Found – Pastor Donna Doutt – September 15, 2019

[1]It’s hard to shake off a mother’s influence. John Newton’s earliest memories were of his godly mother who, despite fragile health, devoted herself to nurturing his soul. At her knee, he memorized Bible passages and hymns. Though she died when he was about seven, he later recalled her tearful prayers for him.

After her death, John alternated between boarding school and the high seas, wanting to live a good life but nonetheless falling deeper and deeper into sin. Pressed into service with the British Navy, he deserted, was captured, and after several days of suspense, [2]he was tied to a grating, and received a flogging of eight dozen lashes. Following that disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated murdering the captain and committing suicide by throwing himself overboard. He’s quoted as saying, “I was capable of anything.”

More voyages, dangers, toils, and snares followed. It was a life unrivaled in fiction. Then, on the night of March 9, 1747, John, at the ages of 23, was jolted awake by a brutal storm the descended too suddenly for the crew to foresee. The next day, in great peril, he cried out to the Lord. He later wrote, “That tenth of March is a day much remembered by me, and I have never suffered it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748 – the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”

The next few years saw slow, halting spiritual growth in John, but in the end he became one of the most powerful evangelical preachers in British history, a powerful foe of slavery, and the author of hundreds of hymns. From a slave trader to an evangelist! Can you guess what his most famous hymn is? It’s “Amazing Grace!” We just sang the first three verses of it. Can you hear his story in the lyrics? John Newtons was lost and then found, and now he will tell the world through his gift of song!

In our new Bible study of the “12 Disciples” that we’re doing with the Front Porch group, we talked this week about when and how we came to our faith. Many believed they simply followed into the church because their families brought them. They were “raised in the church.” But as our discussion continued, we realized there is a difference between being a member of the church…and saying that we are followers of Jesus…and actually being a “seeker.” Someone looking to know Christ, to be a follower, and to be a disciple.

I invite you to think about that for a minute. When was it? What were the circumstances? How old were you? Who did you tell? Could you tell that a change had come over you?

Was it a time, like John Newton, when your life was in turmoil, conflict, or jeopardy?

Was it like our believed apostle Paul? He was hateful, merciless, literally a killer, until he was blinded and shattered on the way to Damascus. His world was turned upside down, and he tells us all about it in our scripture today in his letter to Timothy.

He tells him, [3]“I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.

15-19 Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.

Deep honor and bright glory to the King of All Time—
One God, Immortal, Invisible, ever and always. Oh, yes!

I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 - The Message (MSG)

Paul was lost and found, and he will tell the world through the gift of his letters!

[4]Paul’s past sin is central to his testimony. His emphasizing how far he fell, in order to illustrate how low a gracious God would stoop to pick him up, may feel a little forced, but he sticking to it. 

Paul tells this story so that we might see something of ourselves in desperate need of God’s grace through Christ. He is drawing not only from his own experience; he is leaning on promises that came before him. His story fits God’s desire for everyone’s salvation.

…The “lost and the found”…

Our Gospel scripture from Luke this morning tells us two parables. It focuses on the divine “lost and found” and upon joy and celebration. It’s a contrast between two types of characters and two different responses to Jesus ministry. We have two groups of people. On one hand, the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. On the other hand, the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling. We need to move that group from the grumbling side to the rejoicing side…from not being “holier than thou” to being part of the community of Christ.

The first about the lost sheep, the second about the woman with the lost coin. If we would have taken this scripture reading out a little bit further, we would have run right into the story of the prodigal son. Remember him? He was lost and then found!

[5]This parable unfolds in a way that emphasis the redemption of the “lost,” but it is the “already found” that the parable is meant to bring to repentance.

What things are lost in these parables? Yes, you might think it’s the sheep. Jesus poses the question,

“does not (the shepherd, leave the 99 of his 100 in the wilderness and) go after the one that is lost…?” When found Jesus says that the shepherd would say, “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 person who need no repentance.”

And when one of the woman’s ten silver coins is l lost and she finds it, Jesus says she calls her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have the coin that I had lost.”

The final line of that Gospel scripture today tells us that Jesus said to the Pharisees and the scribes in verse 10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Who is the sinner? Who is the lost one? Who needs found?

Indeed, we hopefully know Jesus well enough by now to predict the ones who are lost are the Pharisees and the scribes who grumbled about Jesus welcoming the sinners and eating with them.

That last line, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” tells the story and puts a final twist on the parable.

The sinners in the story are the ones who need repentance, the ones who need their minds changed. God rejoices when the religious insiders, and that includes all of us, change our minds about who is in and who is out. Who is the sinner? What is the sin? What constitutes a sin? Who decides if I’m a sinner and you’re not, or if you’re a sinner and I’m not? Perhaps we’re not really sinners. Maybe we’ve just been misplaced, and need for God to find us. We are lost and need to be found.

The Pharisees were those who claimed to be holy. But that’s not how Jesus saw it. He saw their judgment of others as a sin. The muttering and gossiping of the Pharisees and scribes would judge Jesus by the company he kept, implying that the one who shows hospitality to the sinner is a sinner himself.

[6]Jesus understands the struggle with being lost, the emptiness of being separated, and the struggle to return. Jesus does not turn AWAY from sinners, but toward the lost…the ones who are misplaced…to make a place for them.

Jesus understands that those on the fringe of the community are integral to what the community in all its fullness should be. Until they return, the community is incomplete. The parables are about a hospitality that seeks to forgive and restore.

Back at the beginning of this message, just as we considered earlier: when did we stop becoming a person in the pew and start becoming a seeker? Let’s consider when did we stop becoming the judgmental  Pharisee and start being a welcoming community?

These parables call us to open our doors and rejoice. The rejoicing happens when we are complete as a church, and there is no such category as the one and the ninety-nine. Every sheep is important. True repentance of sin happens when our minds are changed to such a degree that we cannot see the community of our church as whole until all are included and no one is “lost.”

John Newtons wrote, ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear, The hour I first believed.” Paul writes in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”

I call on you today to be a believer, a seeker, a finder of lost sheep, and  a giver of grace. That’s what Jesus would want for you. Let’s rejoice in Him!

Amen.

 

 

[1] Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville TN. 2003

[2] Wikipedia contributors. "John Newton." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 Sep. 2019. Web. 12 Sep. 2019

[3] Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

[4]   Matthews, William P. “Matt”. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P.63-67

[5] Nixon, G. Penny.  Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P.69-73

[6] Debevoise, Helen Montgomery. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P. 72

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