Sermons 2007
"Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Proper 19C 2007 Luke 15:1-10

There is a certain penny in our house that seemed to take great delight in becoming lost. At least it appeared and reappeared on the floor of our laundry room with great frequency. I could tell it was the same penny because of a peculiar and particular pattern of corrosion on the obverse side. Perhaps it has been permanently found – or at least spent – because I haven’t seen it yet this week.

Jesus used simple little stories of every day life to express powerful truths. In these two little stories, parables, Jesus illustrates his concern for the people considered lost and beyond the pale by the conventional leadership of his time. “All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” And so he tells two deceptively simple stories about a lost sheep and about a lost coin.

But the Greek verb used for lost, apollumi, is anything but simple. It literally means to destroy or kill in battle, to lose or suffer loss from, to perish, to be lost. In its figurative and metaphoric senses that underlie these senses of being lost, apollumi, it connotes trifling away one’s life. In this sense, the soul of a human being is an object of value in which the human being, God, and His commissioned representative are interested – and the thought that the loss or destruction of one’s soul is a result of the will or fault of the one who suffers the loss.

And hence, apolumi means definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of the extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death.

And so in these two little stories the impact on his listeners is of the abyss opening before them, the sheep hanging in the void, caught by a bush or ledge, of a coin vanishing into a deep crack in the earthen floor of the houses of his time in Palestine. Lost and gone for ever, hopeless of recovery.

But that’s not the end of the story. The lost are found. The Christ the seeker, the Good Shepherd, finds the lost and does not give up until they are found. There’s an old proverb that assures us that for every step we take toward God, God crosses the abyss to meet us.

A recent commentator notes that “In both parables, rejoicing calls for celebration, and the note of celebration may be exaggerated to emphasize the point. Neither sheep nor coins can repent, but the parable aims not at calling the "sinners" to repentance but at calling the "righteous" to join the celebration. Whether one will join the celebration is all-important because it reveals whether one's relationships are based on merit or mercy. Those who find God's mercy offensive cannot celebrate with the angels when a sinner repents. Thus they exclude themselves from God's grace.” (1)

Albert Race Sample tells his story of God's complete love, mercy, and acceptance in the book Racehoss, Big Emma's Boy. Racehoss grew up in a violent home and was a repeat offender in the Texas prison system. The all-too-familiar cycle emerged: prison, parole, offense, prison. Racehoss learned cunning survival skills in an environment of extreme brutality. But one day, he wrote:

"The slamming of the two steel doors still rang in my ears. Sitting naked on the slab in pitch-black silence, I hung my head as the tears bounded off the floor onto my feet . . . Sweat poured. Gritting my teeth, I hugged and rocked myself, trying to squeeze my head against the unyielding concrete . . . I mauled myself, scratching and tearing my body. Slumped, exhausted, on the slab I covered my face with both hands and cried out, "Help me, God! Help meee!!."

"A ray of light between my fingers. Slowly uncovering my face, the whole cell was illuminated like a 40-watt bulb was turned on. The soft light soothed and I no longer was afraid. Engulfed by a presence, I felt it reassuring me. No pressure any more, I breathed freely. I had never felt such well-being, so good, in all my life. Safe. Loved . . .

"And the voice within talked through the pit of my belly, "Don'cha worry about a thing. But you must tell them about me."

"I lay back on the slab. A change had taken place. Never before had I felt so totally loved. That's really all I ever wanted. The biggest need in my life fulfilled in an instant. And I loved that Presence back. (2)

If you’re like me and Racehoss – one of the sinners – we can take great joy in the boundless grace and mercy of the God who loves us. We are a pilgrim people, works in progress, toward righteousness, knowing we can never attain perfect righteousness, knowing that the journey and the struggle and the questioning are the thing.


1. Culpepper, “Luke”, The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume IX, p. 298, as quoted in eSermons Illustrations for 17 September 2007.
2. Albert Race Sample, Racehoss: Big Emma's Boy, Ballantine Books, 1986, as quoted in Pulpit Resource for 16 September 2007