The joy of God (find the lost)
Reading: Luke 15:1-7 (Matthew 18:12-14)
People don’t like losing something.
They want abundance of everything.
When people lose things they value, they have this remorse and grief and so on.
We all have an experience when we feel remorse.
We don’t like it.
This feeling comes when we lost something.
Today, Jesus told a story of a shepherd who lost one of his sheep.
Let’s try to read again using our imagination.
Once upon a time, there was a shepherd in Israel.
He was living taking care of his sheep.
He had a hundred sheep.
He knew their names.
He knew their characters and habits.
He lived with them and played with them.
He loved his sheep.
Then one of his sheep was trying to find something to eat.
But he couldn’t find any.
Then this sheep wandered off and lost his way.
This sheep was not intelligent enough to find his way back home.
Then the shepherd noticed that one of his sheep was missing.
99 sheep were eating and playing and resting.
But the shepherd realized that one of his sheep was missing.
So he left his ninety-nine sheep in the wide open field.
Then he went after the lost.
When he was about leave them, 99 sheep were divided into two different groups: Group 1 and Group 2.
They were shocked.
They were shouting:
“Meh, what about us?
Shouldn’t you also take care of us?
What if some wolf or other animals comes and attaches us?
Who is going to take care of us then?
We have trusted in you until now.
But what is this?”
They felt that this shepherd is not intelligent enough to take care of them.
Knowing well of his character, they were like:
“Oh boy, here he goes again.”
Seeing the shepherd running, they shouted:
“Come back soon!”
Then they try to take care of other sheep while he was away.
They know that the lost sheep is not able to find his way back alone and to live without this shepherd.
The sheep now needs this shepherd.
So, they pray that the lost would be found easily.
After a long search, the shepherd saw the lost.
Thinking that this sheep must have been really frightened, he was filled with compassion and ran to his sheep, threw his arms around him and hugged him.
Then he puts it on his shoulders and joyfully comes home.
When he came back, the shepherd calls his friends and throws a party.
He was rejoicing saying:
“Look, this sheep were dead but now is alive again.
This sheep now got a new life.
Hey, what is like to have a new life?”
As he had a good time like this having a party, the sheep were again divided into Group 1 and Group 2.
Listening to the music and dancing, they were not happy.
They wanted to stop this party immediately.
They complained about the shepherd.
Then the shepherd saw that they were angry and refused to have eye contact with him.
So, the shepherd went out to talk with them.
Then they said:
We didn’t get lost, because we have been paying attention to what you are doing.
We listened to you and obeyed you.
But you didn’t give us a party for being good sheep.
But this one didn’t pay attention to you and ended up ruining your whole afternoon.
But you gave him a party.
He is not a hero coming back home.
No, we got to change his careless behaviors.
So, stop this party.
And punish him for not paying attention to you and following you.”
They understand the shepherd.
They think like him and feel like him.
So, they welcome this sheep.
In fact, they think this sheep is now more valuable because he have lived with the shepherd and for a short time suffered a bit without the shepherd. Having this experience now this one can explain to younger sheep why they need to follow the shepherd and how good is to be with this shepherd.
They also remember the shepherd runs toward the lost.
He stopped everything to run to find the lost.
This action shows what kind of shepherd he is.
He loves his sheep even when they wasted his time and energy.
After telling this kind of story, Jesus says:
God rejoices more over one sinner turning around.
God gets so emotional when a human life is changed for good.
Instead of hiding God’s joy, God throws a party in heaven.
God loves to see people come alive.
When they are changed, God rejoiced over this repented sheep more than over ninety-nine good sheep.
Unfortunately, most of us cannot see God rejoicing in heaven.
We don’t see God jumps for joy.
So, Jesus told this story so that we can imagine and meet God in our imagination.
Following this story, Jesus wishes that we experience the heart of God.
Jesus is trying to help us imagine of God who rejoices.
There is God’s kindness for those who are found by God again.
The story explains the life of Jesus.
Jesus lived his life in search for the lost.
Jesus work together with God
His job was to take care of people.
In order to do so, Jesus searches to find the lost.
Do you want to make God happy?
Do you want to work for the joy of God?
Then ask God to use you to help a person to get to know of God.
Ask God to help you to help a person to be found by God.
Ask God to help you to help people to use their gifts and share their talents to help people to be found in God.
Even though we hear this kind of story at the church, sometimes, we feel we are abandoned by God.
We feel that we lost our way.
We feel that we have sinned and could not return to God like before.
So telling this story, Jesus is saying that God will graciously welcome us back.
Jesus was telling this story two thousand years ago.
There is another reason that Jesus is telling this story.
In those days, there was a group of religious people who didn’t even hang out with the lost.
They called them sinners.
These sinners made a living in not so honorable fashion.
Because of their occupations, religious leaders judged them and treated them as if God didn’t love them.
Then they “sinners” have believed it was so.
But our strange Jesus welcomes sinners and had a good time with them.
Then religiously mistaken people blamed Jesus for eating and hanging out with sinners and social outcasts.
So Jesus comes to explain that God loves the lost and searches carefully to find them.
God values them very much.
In fact, God sent Jesus to find the lost.
God sent Jesus to help these precious “sinners” to understand to God.
Jesus guides them, teaches them and loves them.
On the other side, Jesus is explaining that how sad he was, when people used religion to judge others.
Jesus is explaining how sad he was when people use religion to accuse anyone.
People do that because they don’t understand God.
Instead of judging, we are called to love them and forgive them so that they may experience new life in God and that they may rejoice in God.
Lastly, let’s think about how do people get lost?
They may have been pursuing some important goals in life.
They may have worked hard for what was before them.
Then after awhile, they may feel, “I lost the way.”
Their goal became an idol.
Some of them might have thought that they were living for God.
But they lost joy, purpose, pure love for God on the way.
Then they felt this feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness.
When we get lost, we experience some frustrations.
They want to get back to God.
They wonder whether God is going to love them the same.
They wonder whether it is possible to get back to God as before.
They wonder whether God is going to accept them or not.
But some other people left God willingly.
So, God does not push or coerce them to come back.
Then they tried everything to live without God.
God might be worrying about them since God had a better plan for them.
But, when God sees a sign that they want to serve God again, God leaves everything and runs after them.
When people confess their sin and returns to God, God welcomes them with open arms.
Of course, we don’t have to get lost in order to meet this God.
I hope that you never leave God.
I hope that you experience God and God’s love all of your life.
I hope that you share God’s personality with others.
I hope that you share how much God wants to be a friend to people.
I hope that you read the story of Jesus to remind you.
God loves you.
But for some people, it is not easy to imagine.
They may want to serve God.
They may want to experience God’s love.
Then they may also hear God saying:
“You are precious to me.
I love you.
You are my people.
You are my coworkers.” (Isaiah 43:4)
When you hear God saying this to you, you feel satisfied.
You feel you are found in God.
You feel you don’t need to search anymore.
Then you know you are called.
Then as you grow in God, understanding you are chosen, you will be able to work with God.
Through your ministry, people will get to know more of God and know how to serve God with you.
The more you know God, the more you become like God.
Your character and your personality become like that of Jesus.
Then, you can share the love of God with the world.
God is going after the lost.
Jesus invites us to search for the lost together with him.
People need to know that God welcomes them.
For some people, this may be difficult to imagine that God throws a party for them even though they have turned away from before.
Jesus asks you to pray for the lost because they are so precious.
As you pray for people, you may feel the heart of God.
You may feel the guidance of Holy Spirit, as you pray for them.
So pray for people.
They may be your children, parents, teachers and friends.
Even though you may do a lot things at the church, we know our ministry does not end here.
Our ministry is taking care of people who already love God and serve God.
Our ministry is to search for the lost and the confused inside and outside the church.
We are called to help them better imagine who God is.
We are called to help people imagine that God dances for joy, as they come to God.
You may meet someone who say:
“I don’t know how to serve God.
I don’t know who God is.”
I hope that you can explain God to them.
I hope that you explain as if you are explaining someone you know so well.
Ask the Holy Spirit will also explain to them.
I hope that you can explain the story of Jesus to them.
I hope that you help them to imagine God who is the Good Shepherd.
I hope that you explain God who is looking for the lost.
I hope that you rejoice then when God rejoices.
Jesus, help us to imagine you looking for the lost.
Help us to march with you to find the lost and have a party of finding all your sheep.
Thank you for finding us.
In your name, we pray.