Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost September 10 and 11, 2022
“The One” Luke 15:1-10
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
There’s always one. One who can’t keep up. One who can’t follow directions. One who makes life hard for everyone else. There is always one. At work there is always the one who just can’t get along with the rest of the office. At school there is the one who causes the rest of the class to miss recess. In the family there is the one who their mom always loses sleep over, maybe we call them the “black sheep” of the family. Ask any teacher, coach, employer, fellow-worker, mom or dad, and they’ll tell you what I’m telling you. There is always one. Always.
And it isn’t just me who speaks this way, Jesus in the “Parable of the Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:1-7) tells a story that begins, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them…” 99 stayed where they should have been but there is always the one who has their own mind and does what pleases them.
You know that I’m telling you the truth. You’ve lived long enough to know that somebody always seems to screw things up. So here’s the question. Who’s the one? Maybe it’s you. Yeah, you. Or, maybe it’s me. Jesus wasn’t specific when He told the story about that one sheep but you know me well enough and I know you well enough that all of us might qualify as the offender.
Jared Milius, an amazing pastor at Mt. Zion in Denver, wrote a sermon on this text 6 years ago and he asks some pointed questions that we need to answer, “Have you broken the Commandments? Have you been grumbling and complaining about your life? Are you holding grudges about a friend or your boss or your dad or anyone? Do you entertain evil desires- that you could have the woman on the computer screen? or the one at the gym? Have you snuck around or covered your tracks? told lies to make yourself look better? Do you daydream about how much smarter you are than the president or the governor – or your Facebook friends who say dumb things? Do you lose your temper? yell at people and curse them in your car? Have you been angry with God because he hasn’t jumped through your hoops? (Concordia Pulpit Resources, September 18, 2016, Page 29)
There is always one who gets lost. I have. I’m the one who got lost. You have, you’re the lost one too. The one? Your friend. Your enemy. People get lost. In this story that Jesus told I think He was talking about the people that He was associating with. This is how this whole story began, “Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats them.’” (Luke 15:1-2). Jesus was in the same room with prostitutes and liars and cheats. He rubbed elbows with folks that most respectable people wouldn’t even let in the back door.
What should you do with that one, the mess-up, the rebel? I tell you what we do – we forget them. They become invisible to us. We ghost them, ignore them. And that is what makes this parable about “The One” so amazing. Listen to this story and its incredible conclusion, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 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.” (Luke 15:4-7)
Don’t you see – the one is important to God. The one who got lost, the one who went the wrong way, the one who has the evil heart and ungodly life is important to God. Sometimes we give up on people. They will get no more chances from us. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.” But if God doesn’t give up on them, neither should we.
Who is “The One”? We are. They are. And this whole chapter is about God persistently calling people back to Him, to a turning from sin, to faith, to a new life. This reading, this chapter, is a word confirms that God doesn’t want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. (See II Peter 3:9)
There is a Christian band called “Lost And Found”. It is a couple of Lutheran guys named Michael Bridges and George Baum. They are quite good. Lots of fun. They have a lot of laughs with their audiences and give a clear witness to Christ.
The band is sometimes asked, “Which one of you is Lost, and which of you is Found?” Everybody laughs. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s not either/or, it is both/and. It’s worth noticing, not insignificant at all, that the band Lost And Found capitalizes the A in And. We’re lost and found. In our sin, we are lost; in the work of Jesus, we are found.
You know there is always the one. The problem child, the pain in your back side, the one who can’t accept responsibility. There is always the one. There is always the one sheep that gets lost. That one is us. It’s them. But wonderfully, that is not the end of the story. The one that was lost gets found. There is a shepherd who goes and cares about the one and brings it back home.
This account is about the one who was lost. But more than a story about the lost, it is the account about The One who finds the lost. Be clear about this – there is only One who can find you, wash you, save you. That one is Jesus Christ. Here are some words that God gives us about the One:
- This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. (I Timothy 2:3-6)
- There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
- How about this verse that points to The One? Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
- Finally – And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (I John 5:11-12)
Our lesson is about the one who got lost. Then our lesson is about the One who went and found the one who got lost. But it ends not about one, but about the many. The sheep is back, alive, healthy, whole. After the shepherd finds the sheep, puts it on his shoulders, and comes back home, he says, “Rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:6b)
Sometimes people, our people, our members, our fellow worshippers, our family, our dearest, get lost. They are going down the wrong road. They leave the faith. Jesus is no longer their Savior. They no longer confess that Jesus leads them as their Lord.
So you shepherd them. You listen to their struggles. You hear their complaints and you speak of the only One – Jesus – who can answer life and death. You pray for them. You never stop loving them. When they come back. When they turn toward the God they left, let’s throw a party. Let’s cry in joy. Let’s thank God that He didn’t give up on them, or on us, and we thank God we didn’t give up on them either. The angels are happy and so are we.
This story is about the one who got lost, the One who came looking, the One who is our only hope, and the many who are so happy that God is so good to people, to us, who get lost. Or should I say, Lost AND Found. Amen!!