Sermon for the Fourth Week of Lent, Midweek – Parable of the Lost Sheep/Coin

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). “The Good Shepherd (Le bon pasteur),” 1886-1894. The Brooklyn Museum. Public Domain.

This sermon was originally delivered at Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church, East Setauket, New York.

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

On Sunday, we learned about how we have a God who runs to us to embrace us and restore us to life with him.  Today/Tonight, we learn more about this God of ours.  For he tells us two more parables in the same sitting with the Parable of the Prodigal Son—the Parable of the Lost Sheep, and the Parable of the Lost Coin.

Both of these parables are about something getting lost—a coin, a sheep—and someone searching diligently until the lost thing is found—the shepherd, and the woman.  But did you notice this about the parables?  In each parable, the thing that is lost is worth relatively little.

Think of it this way: Jesus asks the people present, “which man of you, having 100 sheep, and losing one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and seeks after the lost one until he finds it?”  Likewise, “supposing a woman has ten drachmas, and she loses one,, does she not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching diligently until she finds it?”  One sheep out of 100.  One coin out of ten.  Not insurmountable losses—indeed, they could be very acceptable losses, especially in the case of the one sheep.  Why waste all that time and effort hunting for that lost sheep or that lost coin?  One sheep won’t really affect the market value of a herd that size.  Why leave the 99 behind by themselves in the wilderness to chase after one sheep? One coin is easily lost, better to focus on keeping the other nine safe and sound.  I think Jesus’ hearers would have thought this very strange.

But Jesus points to the joy of the recovery.  The shepherd will put the lost sheep on his shoulders and come home rejoicing, gathering his friends and neighbors together to show them the lost sheep he has found.  The woman, upon finding her coin, will call her friends and neighbors together and show them the lost coin, found.  “But it’s just one sheep!  It’s just one coin! How important can those really be compared to what wasn’t lost?”

Well, when you consider what Jesus says about the rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, it makes more sense.  Because in God’s eyes, worthless sinners are important, perhaps more important to him than the righteous who have been around forever.  God desires not the death of the wicked, but that they would turn from their sin and live.  For that reason, every unrepentant sinner is important to him because he wants all such people to receive eternal life.  The Creator of all does not wish to see his creation destroyed.  He wants his children, made in his image, to live, so he searches after those who are outside of the fold in order to bring them in, love them, and protect them. 

This is what sets our God apart from all others who might try to claim the name “God,” because rather than expecting “lost” people to find him, he comes to find them, to seek them out and lead them back to himself.  And how does he do this?  He takes on flesh and dwelt among us.  The Son of God, Second Person of the Godhead, became one of us so that he could speak to us directly—he ate with tax collectors and sinners of all varieties, he spent time living with them,, speaking good news to them and encouraging them to go and sin no more on account of who he is and what he does for them, on account of his promise as the Messiah that he will take away the sins of the world and reconcile all people to himself.  And he made good on this promise when he came to Calvary and, taking the sins of the world on himself, died on a cross the death meant for all sinners so that all who look upon him can repent and inherit eternal life.  He died because every person is so important to him that he would die in their place, that they might live.

This God of ours who runs to us also seeks us out diligently and rejoices when he finds us.  He sought us out when he came to us as one of us, and he continues to seek out the lost through the work of the Holy Spirit through his church, where his promises are spoken again and again and where sinners come to the waters of baptism to receive the washing that takes away sin and grants eternal life.  

Likewise, the Holy Spirit works through all of us who were once lost but who are now found, speaking through us when we share the good news of how this God of ours has found us with others and bringing them back with us to this place where they, too, might be restored to the full number of those being saved.  Just as the Son of God became one of us to seek out all of fallen humanity, now he works through those of us who have been saved to bring others to the place where they, too, may receive saving faith, working through us to show those outside the fold his love and his care so that they might trust him and know his love.

So my brothers and sisters, we know what kind of God our God is now: he is a God who runs to us, and he is a God who seeks us out, doggedly searching for us until he finds us so that he can bring us home to dwell in safety with him forever.  Knowing this God who loves us so much that he looks for us in this way, be encouraged to share this good news of his love for us with everyone, that the whole host of heaven and all the saints may rejoice over them just as they have rejoiced over us.  Amen.

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