The Gospel reading from a few weeks ago really struck home for me. The story of what used to be commonly called “The Prodigal Son””. Lost in his own very personal “lost-ness” and thankfully winding up in the “found-ness” of the Father’s arms. (Excuse the terminology, please).
Lost and found…
Like a sheep that goes wandering.
Like a coin of real worth both in sentimental and monetary value.
Like a son who asks a father for his share of his inheritance. “Now. If you please, Dad.”
Like a father who (maybe momentarily, gets lost) and grants his son’s request.
To another son who seems to lose perspective.
For me, the whole of Luke’s Chapter 15…covering the lost and found of life goes to the very, very, heart of the Gospel message.
In essence, God reaching out.
To those lost. Those bewildered. Those at the end of their tether. Those who have a story of brokenness.
Which includes each and every one of us me thinks.
The Gospel reading.
15 1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of questionable reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.
4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.
The Story of the Lost Coin
8-10 “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”
The Story of the Lost Son
11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to feel it. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corn-cobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a prize-winning heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’
28-30 “The older brother stomped off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”
I must confess. I have an atrocious sense of direction. Atrocious.
Years ago whilst leading a group of young people across London towards our accommodation I turned right coming out of a Tube station and not left which I should have. An hour later (as opposed to 10 minutes later) we arrived (amidst some grumbling it has to be said).
In my ministry, I find myself attending local Parish churches, meetings and events across rural Armagh, Tyrone and Louth. Even with Google maps, I have to give myself at least 30 minutes extra travel time in particular when I am travelling somewhere I have not been to before.
And yes. You have guessed it. I am hopeless at orienteering!
In a sense we can all live with the experience of losing our way…when it comes to travelling. No real harm done. Hopefully.
Yet in the range of stories Jesus tells those accusing Him of hanging out with “men and women of questionable reputation” (Luke 15 v 1 to 3), being lost, or losing something important causes real worry, hurt and distress.
The (prodigal) son literally blew his inheritance and ended up lost. To his father, brother, culture. Home. Maybe, above all, lost as to who he was.
The father, I wonder, really wonder…did his experience of being asked by his son for an inheritance; so confuse the father that he (briefly) lost himself? And agreed to the younger son’s request?
And, as for the older brother…eyeing up his inheritance to come, watching the father “mourn” for the younger son. Was he too, lost? Resentful of the duties he had to carry, the honour he had to give to his father? Feeling that he and his Dad (in taking each other for granted possibly) had lost relationship?
And that’s the crux, potentially of Christ’s “lost” stories. The loss of relationship.
And somehow the “found” of relationship.
A son coming to his senses.
A father living with open arms.
And loss. Yes. But hope, restoration, renewal. Found.
There is much to be “lost” about at the moment. The utter depravity of war in Ukraine. A world still rocked by a global pandemic. A local economy here in Northern Ireland, squeezed by ideologically imposed austerity. Not to mention climate change.
But may each of us, all who call upon the name of Christ, in our darkest moment, in the world’s dark season,
this Easter season….
look for the open arms of the Son of God and of the Father
through the Cross.
That brings hope, renewal, restoration.