The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Sermon - September 11, 2016
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-10
Sermon Title:

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     Just over a year ago I lost my car keys.  Now I donít mean that I put them down someplace and found them hour or even a day later.  I mean that I lost them.  I had been driving our truck for the summer, and I hate carrying around too many keys, especially when I donít have a place to leave them.  So when summer came and I started to wear shorts, I pared down my keys to the ones I needed.  Truck, house, and the church in town.  The minivan key, which is a big rubber coated key with the chip inside went away, as did our Rav 4 key, along with the little fob that locks and unlocks the car, and also will start it for you when you press the start button on really cold morningsÖ all went away for the summer.

     By went away, I mean that I put them someplace safe.  They were all together, and they either went onto my dresser, or on a shelf we have in our kitchen, or perhaps out in the truck.  When the summer ended, it started to get cold, I went back to long pants, and went to put all my keys back together.  The keys that I removed were not on the dresser.  I know, I took everything off the dresser, cleaned it, checked the drawers in case it had fallen down into one of the drawers, and even looked behind it.  Since it is not there, I went to the kitchen and performed the same ritual.  Everything was taken off that shelf.  There is a desk below that, so everything was taken off the desk, maybe the fell down.  Again, check the desk drawer.  Long shot, but could have, in the right circumstances fallen off the shelf, bounced on the desk and gone into the drawer.  Last place was the truck.  Searched all those little compartments in the center, looked inside the center console, throwing out gas receipts from 7 or 8 years ago.  Found some interesting things but no car keys. 

     And I will find them someday.  I know that they exist, and I know that they are either in the house or truck, probably the house.  And when that happens, I will call all my friends together and we will have a party.  I will buy a sheet cake, decorate, make punch, maybe even rent a bounce house for the kids.  It will be a huge party, for once my keys were lost, but now they are found.  After all, which of you would not do the same?

     Nobody would.  Which of you would, upon losing a coin, would light a lamp and sweep and clean until it is found, and then spend some, or perhaps all of the money you found to throw a party?  Which of you, upon having a sheep wander away would leave 99 in harmís way to go and look for the one lost one?  And when you find it, again, a party, where it is very possible that one of those obedient sheep will be used will feed the guests. 

     The problem with these parables is that they have been heard so often, we know what is going to happen, and we know what we think it means.  God is the woman who will search for the lost coin and celebrate when she finds it.  God is the shepherd who will go off to find that one lost sheep and celebrate when he finds it.  And we have been told that this is the joy that God feels when one who is lost is found, or when a sinner repents. 

     We donít often talk about repentance in our church.  We do have a confession of sin during lent and on communion Sundayís, but sometimes that even seems shallow to me.  God, I am sorry for the things I have done, we are forgiven, great.  We know we are forgiven, but at the core, repentance is not only acknowledging what we have done, and hoping to change our ways, a moral change.  But it should be a time to really look differently at our lives, a turning around, realizing that we are lost, and have a desire to be found. 

     This raises and interesting dilemma for us in the church.  For most of us, we are really good at putting forward a good front.  I am an employed man with a decent job.  I have a wife, two kids, a dog and a cat.  We have a roof over our head and enough food in our house that we are not hungry.  And most of us are in a similar situation, at least what others see.  We own or rent houses, many are or were married, many have some kind of family, maybe not close but at least someone we call family.  And when asked how we are doing, we know how to respond.  I am good, and how are you?

     On the outside, we are the coins that are not lost.  We are the ones safely in the jar, or the bank.  We are not the lost sheep, we are the ones hanging out with the other 99.  We project, or try to project the image that we are good, we are found, while we all sin and have faults, we are forgiven and all set. 

     I would like to suggest that, no matter how together we appear, we may be lost and need to be found.  Might the parents who want their children to succeed so much that they wrap their whole lives around hockey games and dance recitals be lost? Might the career minded man or woman who has made moving up the ladder the one and only priority be lost? Might the folks who work jobs they hate just to give their family things they never had be lost? Might the senior who has a great pension plan but little sense of meaning since retirement be lost? Might the teen who works so hard to be perfect and who is willing to do just about anything to fit in be lost?

     I am going to bet that we could keep going.  If none of these fit you, I am sure that deep down inside you can admit that, in some way, despite your outward appearance, you are also lost.  I am not so sure that this passage is all about sin and repentance as much as it is about being lost and wanting to be found.  Remember that these parables are being told while Jesus is being Jesus.  He is hanging out with the tax collectors and the sinners.  The Pharisees and scribes are upset because Jesus is accepting these people into his company.  And eating with these is a big deal.  This is not like you being seen with me getting a cup of coffee, this is like you being seen with the dirtiest people you can imagine.  This is like you sitting on the corner of a street in a major city with the homeless and drug addicted, no worse than that, the dirtiest you can think of.  Come on, you are on a different level then they are Jesus.   In Jesusí time those dirty ones were the tax collectors and sinners. 

     But it is not a rebuke of their ways.  I donít think that Jesus accepted that their sin was a good thing, but he was not there to teach them what sins are bad, but rather to tell them about a God who loves them so much that God will go out and search for them.  God will risk in order to find them.  It does not matter if you are a sinner, or at least appear righteous on the outside, God will light the lamp and search and search and search.  Or God will leave those who are alright to go looking for the lost one. 

     The church is a place for all those who feel lost, sinner and righteous alike. I invite you to admit your lost-ness, to confide your hopes and fears, dreams and dashed hopes to God, confident that when you turn toward God for any reason, God throws one heck of a party and invites all the angels to celebrate.

     Ultimately this story is one about a God who so wants to be in relationship.  Beyond a God who wants to hear that we are lost, and need to be found.  Our belief in a God that will go out and find us.  And just like the crazy idea of me throwing a party when I find my car keys, or a woman throwing a party after she finds the coin, or a shepherd who goes off to find a lost sheep and throws that sheep up on his shoulders celebrating its return.  That is our God.   After all, which one of you wouldnít?

     In the end, this parable isnít ultimately about sinner or righteous and not even about being lost and found. Itís about a God so crazy in love with Godís children that this God will do anything to find them. To find us.