Archive for the ‘Luke 15:1-10’ Category

You Are Found!

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 5, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus told a story about a lost sheep.  It was a parable He used to illustrate God’s joy in seeing an open sinner turn away from his sin and receive forgiveness and salvation.  It communicates in a very wonderful way how important each of us is to God!  This morning, let’s allow God’s Word to show us something about being lost, how He searches for the lost, the need to celebrate when the lost are found and finally the great joy in being found!

In our Old Testament reading we’re given a wonderful depiction of how God loves us and cares for us in our time of need; in the times we wonder off and get lost!  When is our time of need?  Well, it’s pretty much all of the time, because you see we are sheep who are always prone to wonder!  Listen to how God explains His role and ours: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” [Ezekiel 34:11-12]   Let me ask you a question, who is it that gets lost?  Isn’t it us?  But why are we lost?  Friends, we become lost when we lose sight of our Savior; when we cease to hear our Savior’s voice in the clear Word of God.  You see, when we lose our focus on God’s Word, we begin to wander into a world of thick darkness, which is our own sin and the sins of this world that seek to separate us from our Good Shepherd, who knows that we are lost and promises to find us!

But what if we don’t know that we’re lost?  Could that really happen?  Isn’t God’s Word pretty clear in describing the sin we get lost in?  Yes, but you see, the devil is like a cunning and hungry lion, and he’ll do anything he can to separate us from God’s fold, the church and then lead us out into the dark world of sin.  How does he do this?  By turning other lost sheep into false teachers in order to confuse God’s clear Word so that we become confused and disoriented!  Listen to how God speaks to these false teachers in our Old Testament lesson: “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” [vs. 17-19]

Friends, this treading down the pasture and the mudding of the clear water is precisely what happens when false teachers manipulate God’s Word so that what God calls evil seems to be good!  What does God call evil?  Well listen to what He says through St. Paul: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine”. [1 Tim. 1:8-10]  Who are the lawless and disobedient, the ungodly sinners?  In short, it’s you and me!  How are we saved?  By knowing that we are lost and in danger and then turning to God to be saved!  But if we allow God’s Word to become clouded by the opinions of our sinful society then how are we ever to know that we are lost and in danger?

In our gospel reading this morning we see an interesting example of this.  In our lesson, we see two classes of people, those who knew they were sinners and those who thought they weren’t.  The first group was described as publicans and open sinners.  They heard Jesus pure teaching of the law of God and they knew they were lost.  The second group of people, the Pharisees and the scribes had the same law of God, but they had muddied it so much with the traditions of their religious society that they would never see that they were lost!  They had also heard Jesus teaching but they wouldn’t listen, because if they did, that would mean that they were lost too!  As Jesus was feeding them God’s pure Word, all they could think about was how good they were and how filthy the sinners following Jesus were!  They must have been listening to Jesus and thinking “Look at Him there; He’s surrounded Himself with a bunch of dirty open sinners!”   Indeed, scripture teaches that “sinners were always drawing near Him.  And to this observation Jesus decides to tell a parable.  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” [Luke 15:4]

Did the open sinners know they were lost?  Yes!  God’s Holy Law, like a mirror showed them all of their ugliness, which was their open and militant sin!  What was their reaction?  They felt lost and separated from God because Jesus’ Word had showed them their sin!  What was their response?  They turned to Jesus for help!  They wanted to hear how to find forgiveness and peace with God their Father.  They wanted salvation!  Did the Pharisees and scribes know they were lost?  No!  You see, they wouldn’t let God’s pure Word judge them because they thought that God had given them the right to judge… judge another person’s salvation!  They were so focused on the lost and sad condition of others that they wouldn’t look into God’s Holy Law and see their own lost and sad condition!

What was the point of Jesus teaching?  Simply this, God cares about each and every lamb!  He will go to extravagant measures to save them.  How extravagant?  How about becoming a sheep to save the sheep!  Friends we are the sheep that need saving, whether we admit it or not!  It is God’s clear Word that calls attention to our sin… sin that we can’t get rid of; sin that has caught us and trapped us like a little lamb caught at the edge of a cliff with a hungry lion bearing down on it!  But Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior and Shepherd has come to us and freed us from this trap by taking our place!  He died the death that we were to die so that we would be saved! 

The truth is friends, the only difference between the open sinners and the Pharisees is that one group saw a need for a Savior and the other group didn’t.  Isn’t it true that if a person refuses to admit that they’re sick they’ll also refuse to call on a doctor even when they are dying?  If a person won’t admit that they’re lost aren’t they more likely to run away from their rescuer rather than run to him and be saved! 

Has God’s Word convinced you that without Jesus you are lost in your sins?  Are you also convinced that you need to be found?  If you answer yes, then you have already been found!  God found you with His Word!  When you hear the ugly accusations and terrors of the devil and your own conscience, then you must also hear the sweet words of the gospel… the absolution… the forgiveness of all of your sins.  Friends, when you feel the weight of your sins closing in on you then you must also feel the purifying washing of the water and the Word, your own dear baptism that is always cleansing you of all unrighteousness!  When you feel as though God can’t keep forgiving you because you keep sinning, then let Him strengthen your faith; let Him lead you often to His Holy Supper so He can feed you a meal of forgiveness; a meal where He promises to nourish you with His very body and blood!  Let His holy Word convince you as it did the open sinners that you too have been found by Jesus!  Let God’s Word teach you as well to rest in His means of not just finding you but saving you!

So now what?  Well now it is time to allow God to use us in order to find others.  How?  By going out as sheep who ourselves were once lost but are now found.  We go out as former open sinners looking for other open sinners, but we don’t go out like the Pharisees and scribes, looking down our collective noses at the dirty sinners, instead we go out singing “Amazing Grace”!  Oh how sweet the sound of the gospel that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!  Why do we see?  Because God’s pure Word, the law and the gospel has shown us our sin and then continually shows us forgiveness and eternal life through our Savior and Shepherd Jesus Christ.  How do we work with God to find others?  By showing them the same Word that saved us!  We don’t change it or rearrange it, instead we allow it to change and rearrange us and them! 

Yes there is much work ahead of us as God LEADS us out to find others, but right now it’s time to celebrate the finding of the lost, even you and me!  If you think about it, Divine Service is really God’s on-going celebration of finding the lost.  Jesus says that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [vs. 10]  Think of our worship every Sunday as simply a response to God’s Divine Service of saving us!  It’s a divine service of Word and Sacrament that continuously saves us and then celebrates our salvation.  

Dear friends, when you leave here today let this reality completely over take you… YOU ARE FOUND!  Let God teach you the great joy in knowing that no matter how lost you were in your sin and the sins of this evil world… He searched for you… He found you… He saved you… and He cares for you!  You are found!  You are found!!  Now thank the Lord and give Him praise and tell everyone what He has done.  Oh amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me and like you! 

I pray (that God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost always) guard this Word entrusted to you. (May you) avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of (the false teachers that have caused) some (to leave the Christian) faith.   (May God’s) grace (always) be with you. [1 Timothy 6:20-21]  AMEN!