Lost BUT Found (Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Can you be lost, but found, at the same time? I don’t mean “once was lost, but now am found” (cf. the hymn “Amazing Grace”) as if that meant that we’ve crossed over to a perfect state where we’re no longer apt to go wandering. I’m not talking about ending up somewhere that our seeking Shepherd will no longer need to go looking for us. (That’s not what the hymn “Amazing Grace” is saying, but it could give that impression to some.) I’m referring to being “lost” when left to our own devices yet being “found” because of God’s mercy to us through God’s Son Jesus Christ, and so “lost but found, AT THE SAME TIME.” I’m referring to an attitude where we live out each day like a sheep that has just wandered into a thicket, a coin that has just rolled behind a dresser, yet experiences the joy of its owner who celebrates upon finding it and holds it close. (To read Jesus’ original telling of these parables, click here.) When the Holy Spirit teaches us that we are lost but found we can’t help but also discover just how valuable we are.  We are so important to God that it took the death of God’s own Son to rescue and redeem us. When we recognize that we are lost, but found, our attitude to other lost sheep like us can’t help but change. When we see how valuable we are we begin to see how valuable all people are…and the role we each have to play in God’s mission to the people around us…and even around the world.

St. Paul talks about being lost-but-found a lot, but one of his most memorable statements on the topic occurs in our Second Reading appointed for this Sunday (you can read the full text here): “Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

One of the most meaningful things for me as your pastor is the privilege to be on this very same journey that St. Paul writes about with all of you! This is the time of year that many of our neighborhood small groups relaunch activities after a season of vacation and travel for many of us. Right now and in the weeks ahead our church’s neighborhood small group ministry in six different parts of our local area (California, Hollywood, Lexington Park, Piney Point, Lusby, and St. Mary’s City) are making plans for the fall season. The goal is not simply to enjoy one another’s company, though the events our small groups plan will certainly allow us that. Once again this year we have the chance for us sheep who are lost (but found!) to encounter other lost sheep like ourselves, and point the way to the Good Shepherd who celebrates upon bringing us home.

Is there someone you know who would benefit from a focus on the seeking Shepherd? Let’s share that concern with one another in prayer. Let’s continue to gather and anticipate the joy of that heavenly homecoming with one another!