Locating the Lost
Topic: The Church Scripture: Luke 15:1–15:10
Locating the Lost
Rev. Stuart Strachan Jr
This morning’s sermon is going to be structured a little differently, we will get to our second scripture passage about half way through, so hang with me and eventually it will all make sense.
What I would like to do is sort of recap what we’ve talked about already in this series and try to put all of it in focus. And then we will spend the remaining second half in our sermon text, discussing what it means that part of Jesus’ main focus as he walked the earth, as he did his ministry, was ministry to the lost.
So with that said, we are continuing in our sermon series entitled, “In search of church,” and it’s really a series all about trying to understand and live out the DNA of the church.
What is the church, and based on that, are we living into and out of that reality? Or are we like most churches, where we just kind of do things this way because we always have.
In the first week of our series, we talked about the church being a body. We talked about how from the very beginning, the church was not supposed to be a building, but a people, a people who were called to bear witness to Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.
And if you remember, I demonstrated, with rather poor hand gestures, that the problem with the nursery rhyme, “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and here are the people,”is that it misses something fundamental about the church, that the church is not a building, but the people who gather to worship Jesus as Lord and savior.
Last week, we talked about the fact that the church is made up of disciples. That is, people who have devoted their lives to following Jesus. And this following of Jesus, by its very nature includes reproduction; it includes the call of disciples to make more disciples.
The idea here is that healthy things reproduce. And disciples, followers of Jesus, are called to reproduce if they are going to be healthy. But we also discussed how we often mistake evangelism, which is sharing the gospel, we mistake evangelism for a strategy.
If you say, I am going to do evangelism, people automatically think of a strategy, not necessarily the essence of evangelism.
They think of the strategy of sharing God’s word on a street corner, telling people that they are sinners going to hell unless they repent.
And what we said is, that that is just one strategy, and not a very good one, for how we can make disciples.
So we need other strategies to evangelize, to make disciples, and one of those strategies, if you recall, is to invite people simply to join you with other Christians.
Maybe it’s a small group, maybe it’s worship on Sunday morning, maybe it’s events like Rock the Grove or the Harvest Festival coming up.
And then hopefully as they begin to sense a belonging in Christian community, that they will eventually believe that there really is something special about Jesus Christ. And they will be willing to give their life to him.
Now, one of things I’ve realized, even in my own perspective on the church, is that we have a way of defaulting back to our previous understandings of “church”.
That is, for the majority of us, when we hear “church” we think of a building, if you are a member here, probably you think of our building.
And even though I spent an entire sermon explaining that the church is not a building, when I was looking for graphics for our sermon series, the one you probably see right now, the graphic I chose was what?
A picture of a church building!
I should have gotten a picture of a group of Jesus followers instead right? But it’s kind of like muscle memory.
You all know what muscle memory is right? It’s the idea that we have certain ways of doing things, say swinging a golf club…and yes, I have a golf club up here…
We have a certain way of swinging a golf club, and when we try to say, change that swing…we struggle, because we already have muscles that expect to move a certain way right?
So for instance, recently I had a golf lesson. And the instructor, who obviously knows a lot more about golf then I do, said, “I think I’d like to change your swing”.
Now, this wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, oh, you are just doing this little thing wrong, fix it, and you’ll have a zero handicap, okay, let’s be honest, that was never going to happen.
But no, he said I want to change your swing. Now, I’ll try to attempt my old swing now, and you’ll be happy to know, I don’t intend on using an actual ball because I like my job and I’d prefer to keep it.
So, this was about how I swung before. It wasn’t terrible, but it also had its problems.
So the instructor changed my swing by telling me that I needed to keep the club lower to the ground, both at the beginning of my backswing and at the top of my backswing.
Now, I’ll be honest, at first, it felt very awkward, it flat out felt wrong. I thought to myself, I’m pretty sure I’ll never hit the ball well with this swing…but strangely enough, with a little practice, not only did I start to hit the ball straighter than I was, but I was also hitting the ball about 20-30 yards further than I was before.
Now, why do I bring this all up? Am I just trying to show off my golf swing…definitely not, there’s not a lot to brag about there, in fact, when the instructor was giving me the lesson he said, “you don’t play a lot of golf, so getting your swing in better shape will mean a lot less errors when you do play.”
In other words, you’re not very good. So why do I bring it up? It’s because a lot of the things we’ve been talking about in this series, about the nature of the church, they just run counter to what we’ve believed for a very long time.
And we have this built up muscle memory that the church is a building filled with Christians and we gather for worship once a week, and so on and so forth and it’s very difficult to make these changes from how we’ve always “done church,” just like changing a golf swing, it’s very difficult to change the way we understand and live out what it means to be the church.
And at first, it probably will feel awkward. For many of you, removing pews from the back of the church and adding a fellowship area feels awkward, or perhaps even downright wrong.
But that’s why, as those of us who come from a Protestant tradition, we are called to go back to scripture and ask, does our current DNA match up with what the Bible envisions? And have we turned traditions into biblical warrants, when the Bible actually says nothing about it?
If there is a motto or catchphrase in the Reformed tradition, which we as Presbyterians are a part, it would have to be this: “once reformed, always reformed according to Holy Scripture.”
Now, because we are Reformed, and because we do value scripture, I’d like to turn to our text this morning:
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus welcome the lost? Do we?
In Luke 19, Jesus says “The son of man came to seek and save the lost”, In Matthew 15, He says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
And in our passage today, when criticized by the Pharisees for spending time
with “tax collectors” and “sinners”, he responds by telling a story, or should I say 3 stories, the story of a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son.
In each story, when that which was lost is found, there is great rejoicing, as though there could be nothing greater than to find that which was once lost.
What is Jesus doing here? He’s teaching the Pharisees something about the very heart of God: that God rejoices whenever someone who was lost becomes found.
But have you ever noticed that Jesus spends a lot of time with the lost, he teaches them, even has some of them join his merry band of followers, but the church, the bride of Christ, how often do we spend time with the lost?
At this point I’m going to ask an uncomfortable question:
Are we more like Jesus, who intentionally gave his time to seek and save the lost, or are we more like the Pharisees, staying in our “holy huddle” to avoid being uncomfortable or even labeled as a questionable character?
The good news is, I know that at least some of you have friends and family that are lost.
You’ve discussed them with me, you have, like Garth Brooks, “Friends in low places, where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases your blues away”.
All joking aside, being lost does not necessarily mean you live a bad lifestyle, hanging out at the dive bar that Garth Brooks described in his song.
It just means that Jesus is missing, and when Jesus is missing from someone’s life, than they are missing a sense of direction…in that sense they are truly lost.
So by this definition, most of us know of someone who is “lost.” And I know some of you have tried.
You’ve invited someone to church or a bible study once or twice, and they’ll politely turn you down and then you give up.
To illustrate why this isn’t the best idea, I’d like to invite Brenda and Donnie to come up in just a moment.
Brenda, how many times do you think you asked Donnie to come to church before he actually came?
Donnie, how many times do you think Brenda asked you to come to church before you actually came?
And Donnie, what held you back from coming?
You told me you thought about it a number of times, how many times did you think about coming and then decided not to?
So sometimes you have to just keep asking. Don’t assume if someone turns you down once or twice they won’t eventually they won’t say yes.
Now, I want to move on to one more aspect of “lostness.” And to do that I want to share a story.
Some of you may remember I mentioned this about a year ago, our family headed over to the Apple Castle in New Wilmington to pick apples and have a family day along with some friends.
After surveying the site and grabbing lunch we ended up unsurprisingly at the jungle gym. Our kids were running around as usual, having a blast, when all of a sudden Colleen asked me if I had seen Jack. I had not seen Jack in the past few minutes so we started to look.
Pretty soon, our friends realized he was missing as well and started to help. After a few minutes, it was clear he was not in the jungle gym and he was not at the nearby rides we assumed he would have gone to had he decided to leave.
Eventually, in what felt like an eternity, (but was probably more like 10 minutes) we had the place call for Jack to return to the playground. It was truly a horrifying experience, and thankfully we haven’t had any more of those moments since.
Shortly after that, a man asked us if this cheery 2 year old was our son. He was happy as a clam. He had seen the fresh-made doughnuts and figured he’d just make his way over and pick one up.
Now why do I tell this? Because it shows us one of the paradoxical truths about being lost.
The person that is lost may not even realize that they are lost. Jack wasn’t lost…at least not in his mind…he was right where he wanted to be…getting a doughnut.
And there are a lot of people out there who are lost, and our job is to walk alongside them, and when they are ready, be willing to share God’s grace with them.
I mentioned last week that at Presbytery we had an amazing speaker named Alan Hirsch share about Evangelism and discipleship. And he said he sees himself primarily as one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.”
Or if it’s my son, maybe where to find a doughnut.
But isn’t that beautiful. We don’t have to come across as holier than thou when we share the gospel. We can do it with the humility of one who realizes that everything they do have is a gift, a grace from God above.
So as we come to the end of our time together, let’s remember what the church really is. It isn’t a building; it’s the body of Christ, who gather together to worship God. We do not exist for ourselves, but to call all who are lost to follow Jesus.
And Jesus was the one who came to seek and to save the lost. May we be a church that is known for doing the very same thing.
Will you pray with me?
PRESENTATION (Rev. Stuart Strachan)
Today, I have the great joy and privilege to baptize Dawson Michael Jones, the third child of Brady and Whitney, who are standing up here with Dawson.,
Today we celebrate with God, and all the saints of our Church, as one more child is brought into the covenant of grace through the sacrament of Baptism.
As we celebrate this Sacrament of Baptism, let us remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
We remember also the words of Peter, who on the day of Pentecost said “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.
Obeying the word of our Lord Jesus, and confident of his promises, we baptize those
whom God has called – including children – to bear testimony to God’s claim on us, and to show we belong to God – even before we may be old enough to realize it.
Questions for Brady and Whitney
Do you desire to have your son, Dawson Michael to be baptized?
If so, say yes.
Relying on God’s grace, do you promise to live the Christian faith, to teach that faith to Dawson, and to do so in fellowship and partnership with the body of Christ, your Christian community?
If so, say yes with God’s help.
Yes, with God’s help.
Questions for Family/Sponsors
Do you promise, through prayer and example, to support and encourage Emma to grow and become a faithful follower of Jesus?
If so, say yes with God’s help.
Yes, with God’s help.
Question for the Congregation
Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture Emma, by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging him to know and follow Christ and to be a faithful member of his church?
Yes, with God’s help.
So, we say to you, Dawson…
“Little child, for you Jesus Christ has come, he has fought, he has suffered. For you he entered the shadow of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary. For you he uttered the cry, “It is finished!” For you he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and there he intercedes – for you little child even though you do not yet know it. But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true… “We love God, because He first loved us.”
*The Affirmation of Faith: The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell;
the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
Thanksgiving Over the Water…
…Stu pours water from the pitcher into the baptismal font…Worship Assistant holds the lid of the baptismal font.
[Stu says, while sprinkling…] And so…Dawson Michael Jones, beloved child of God, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All: With joy and thanksgiving
we welcome Dawson Michael Jones into Christ’s church
to share with us in His ministry,
for we are all one in Christ.
Minister: The peace of Christ be with you.
People: And also with you.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Stu says to congregation, “Let us pray….”
Introduction of Dawson and Singing of “Jesus loves YOU” to Dawson
I’ll walk with him down the aisle introducing him to the congregation and vice versa…I will invite the congregation to practice our part in the nurture of Dawson by joining in singing to him, “Jesus loves YOU, this I know…”