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Lost and Found…

September 10, 2016

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Back in March we went snowshoeing in Rocky. We were on a quest to find Alberta Falls which we did. However, we had several adventures making our way to the falls and back again. Funny thing was, we never ventured off from snowshoe trails that were already there. Note to self, we decided that just because the tracks go off in a particular direction doesn’t mean that the tracks are on the right path. When we hiked to Alberta Falls and all the way up to the top of them in August, I recognized some of the spots where we had missed the trail while following snowshoe tracks five months prior.

One of the highlights though of our hike was spending some time with this stunning Stellar Blue Jay along the trail. I was mesmerized by the beautiful colors of this bird. There have been other instances this past winter and spring where we have “gotten off of the trail” while snowshoeing and yet found some amazing places and photo opportunities in Rocky.

There was one snowshoe hike we took that truly had us off trail and lost. As the sun was beginning to set, we realized that we had gotten off trail quite a bit (again, following snowshoe tracks left by some others before us… we will see if we have learned our lesson this coming winter!). I was a bit worried, but was trusting my compass and the elevation and surrounding scenery along with my instinct. As we slid/scrambled down the steep and snowy trail I quickly recognized Bear Lake and was relieved. Sometimes getting a wee bit lost can be fun and sometimes it is a bit nerve wracking.

So what does this have to do with tomorrow’s Gospel reading? Let me explain… In Luke 15:1-10, Jesus is having a meal with a group of tax collectors and, gasp, sinners! The usual suspects (the scribes and pharisees of course) were in the background grumbling about how Jesus actually broke bread and hung out with SINNERS! God forbid that any sort of grace would be extended to them!

The attitude of the scribes and pharisees is an interesting one. By definition, sinners were people who were lost. They were not “in with God” according to the religious elite. They were the outsiders. Funny thing is, if you really look at the story, who is lost? Well, lets see… the “sinners” found Jesus and were enjoying a meal and fellowship with him. The ones who loudly proclaimed that they were the purveyors of the true faith had the Messiah right there in front of them and yet they didn’t see him. The phrase from “Amazing Grace” comes to mind… I once was lost but now am found, ’twas blind but now I see… Who was lost? Yep, the religious leaders who were the entire trumpet section of the rather loud and obnoxious “establishment”.

Jesus, upon hearing the grumbling of the scribes and pharisees tells a series of parables. He tells them about the shepherd who, upon realizing that one of his 100 sheep is missing, goes out and searches high and low for that one sheep. He doesn’t call the lost sheep collateral damage and chalk it up to percentages. He goes out and finds it! And when he finds it, he calls his friends together to celebrate the good news that the one who had been lost was now found. Next he tells them about a woman who, upon realizing that she has lost one of her ten coins turns the house upside down in an effort to find the lost coin. Again, she doesn’t simply say, “oh well, it’s lost, I’ll get another one.” She turns the house upside down and when she finds it, she calls her friends together to celebrate finding the lost coin.

The scribes and pharisees didn’t seem to have any problems with chalking up the “lost ones” as acceptable losses. Jesus, on the other hand, did. He had a HUGE problem with saying nine out of ten isn’t bad! Jesus challenged the religious elite to look beyond themselves and their own salvation towards those whom God had made in God’s own image and were lost. They were so busy fawning over the ninety-nine who didn’t need saving that they ignored the one who was lost.

When we turn to 1 Timothy 1:12-17, we hear from the Apostle Paul who used to be one of the Pharisees and a part of the religious elite who looked down on those who were different from them. Paul was one of the lost. You might even say he was the lost coin or the lost sheep. Remember how he was literally knocked off of his feet and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

Saul, now Paul, knew first hand what it was like to be lost and then found. He knew what it was like to be forgiven and renewed. In a wee bit of an ego brag, he calls himself chief among sinners. While I don’t believe that was necessary or accurate, the point Paul was making was that his life and his example was used by God to reach out to others who were lost just as he had been.

Back to the hymn “Amazing Grace”. John Newton was the captain of a slave ship. He traded in human cargo. It is said that he was haunted by the ghosts and the voices of all the slaves who had died in the cargo holds of his ships. John Newton, could have easily given Paul a run for his money in terms of who was chief among sinners. Frankly, to be honest, any one of us could probably do the same. The point is that John Newton was that lost sheep or that lost coin. The Spirit went searching (using many agents of grace, mind you) for John and found him. The result of this was a man who had been lost and blind was transformed and renewed. When he penned the words of “Amazing Grace” you could say that he was writing his spiritual autobiography!

Dear reader, these passages should give us pause to think about our own lives. Not only should we examine how the shepherd sought us out; but we should also think about when are we the scribes and pharisees! In their judgmental and hardened hearts, they were the truly lost. The ones they judged? Well, Jesus was breaking bread with them for heaven’s sake! Perhaps we should be slow to judge and quick to search… to love… to welcome… After all, the Good Shepherd didn’t give up on us!

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