Have you ever been lost? I hate being lost. The word immediately reminds me of nearly 6 years ago on our honeymoon in the city of “Cheers,” Boston. I got completely, utterly lost getting into the city AND getting out. I crave a sense of where I am and where I’m going all the time, and I didn’t have it. I was lost. No “Cheers” for me! (OK, yes we did go there).
Today’s Gospel does not put you in the shoes of somebody looking for something lost. It does not picture you finding coins all over your house or walking up and down the streets looking for a lost dog. Perhaps you’ve done either or both of these. Perhaps somebody even left the coins for you to find. And you surely played “hide and seek” as a kid. How often do you play it, kids? But that’s not the picture. If you want to find yourself in this Gospel, look no further than the lost sheep and coin.
How can this be? How can you be the lost sheep and coin? You aren’t lost today. You made your way here just fine a little while ago, and in a little while you’ll make your way home just fine too. You tend to know your way around Pittsburgh, even though there seems to be no direct way to anywhere around here. If you get lost, it’s probably rare, because you go to mostly the same places in the same routine every week. If you do, it’s probably on vacation, which means it’s really an adventure, not a real problem.
You are the lost coin and sheep, and that is a real problem. Nobody wants to be lost. Nobody wants to have no chance of being found. You’ll stop at the gas station to get directions, maybe buy a map. You might even knock on somebody’s door if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and actually manage to find an occupied house. But Jesus says you are the lost coin and sheep, and that means you have no way to get yourself found.
The Greek word for “lost” doesn’t just mean “lost.” It can also mean “perished.” When you know that then you understand why Jesus speaks the way He does. You are a sinner. Scripture clearly teaches that he who sins must perish. It teaches that you must be eternally desolate and afflicted with great pain, with no hope of things eternal.
Why is that? What’s so bad about being a sinner? It’s all we know after all! Sometimes sin is rather enjoyable! That’s our experience, at least, and it is a bad experience. You should not enjoy it, but so often sin is all about self-gratification, about feeding the wants and needs of your flesh until you’ve fed them way past content – if you can ever get content when you’re feeding the flesh which loves to want more and more and even more! The sinful flesh can never get enough of sin, and you can never get rid of the enjoyment of sin either.
What’s wrong with that? God hates sin. He can’t stand it. Think of the thing you can’t stand the most and amplify that a million times. That’s how much God hates each one of our sins. He promises that the one who sins will die. Each sin earns death. It earns for us the end of our lives. It earns for us eternal punishment. Not just our actual sins done in word and deed, but our very sinful nature, inherited from Adam, condemns us, makes us lost, causes us to perish. It has made us rotten on the inside, not at all lovable, not at all somebody God should want to be around. Adam’s sin has corrupted us thoroughly. God lost us when Adam sinned. You throw away rotten fruit, and The Law says God is to throw away into the fire the rotten fruits of creation, sinners like you and me.
But just because God should do that doesn’t mean He wants to do that. And if He doesn’t want to do that, what’s to stop Him from doing what He wants to do instead? He doesn’t want to throw you into the fire. He wants to save you. There’s nothing strong or holy in you, but He wants to remake you. There’s nothing lovable about sinners, but He wants to love you and hold onto you like the most precious treasure in the world, far more precious than all your jewelry, ladies; far more precious than your car or boat or favorite pastime, guys.
So how did He go out to find you? It must have been an incredible mission, since the parable reports incredible things. No shepherd would leave alone 99 sheep to go after 1 sheep who probably already fell off a cliff or filled a wolf’s tummy. No woman would throw a party after finding 1 coin because she’d be spending 100s of dollars more than the coin, money she didn’t have in the first place. What sort of incredible thing did God do to find you?
Jesus your God died for you. He didn’t die a simple or usual death from old age. He was executed. It wasn’t humane either, but death by crucifixion, the worst death, the worst execution, imaginable. He did it with you in mind. He perished on the Cross. There He was lost. There He suffered for all our sins. There He filled Himself up with your rottenness. He buried it all in His Tomb. He’s made it possible for us to become completely pure throughout eternity.
So He comes to find us and purify us. He came to you when He baptized you. In Baptism’s waters your Good Shepherd pulled you out of the jaws of the big bad wolf, that roaring lion, the devil. He drowned the old Adam in you, that rotten self, and gave you the new man who wants to please God and do what’s right. He found you, put you on the path to heaven, and is leading you there every day with His holy Word and Sacrament.
This is a continuing business. That old Adam’s drowned, but Dr. Luther is fond of telling us that he’s a good swimmer. Sin is always trying to take control of you. The devil hasn’t stopped being that roaring lion walking around searching for prey. So he tells us in the Catechism to employ daily contrition and repentance. Daily examine yourself. See where you have sinned. When you go to bed each night, join him in praying God to forgive you where you have done wrong. Be truly sorry for your sins. Desire to amend your sinful ways with His Holy Spirit’s help. Believe God forgives all your sins for Jesus’ sake.
Then rejoice. Rejoice that He has found you. Rejoice with your friends and neighbors by telling them about Jesus when God gives you the opportunity. Rejoice by inviting them to church or Sunday School or Bible Class. Rejoice by giving the gifts God has given you, whether to support this congregation or our school or our missions, like today’s special English District mission offering for Concordia Lutheran Mission in Lebanon County. Rejoice by giving your Amen to the church’s prayers, by joyfully singing her hymns, by receiving the Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood. Rejoice by reading His Word and praying every day. Rejoice by praying your Good Shepherd to rule and guide you through this temporal life so that you’ll not lose eternal life.
We hate being lost. God be praised that Jesus has found us. He died for us and put us on the path to everlasting life. He is the only Ruler and Guide that can get us there. So cast all your burdens on Him, and He will sustain you. He will save you, for by His Death He has delivered your soul in peace from him who would drag you down into hell.