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“You Are Not Lost”
Sermon, Year C, Proper 19, September 15, 2013
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Luke 15:1-10

This is one of those kind of texts that I think in some ways ought not be talked a lot about it. Maybe not worth a long or lengthy explanation or attempt to unpack it too much. It sits very nicely as a self-contained little unit, and it says so much. It is so rich. I think we can just let it sit on our souls and our hearts like a fine gravy on a good meal, and not think about it a whole lot. I have a few things to say about it. But let it be. This idea of going after the lost and seeking, and the rejoicing over finding.

And this idea of Jesus eating with sinners.

The Biblical text, all of the Bible is the story of God’s interactions with humanity and history. It is people trying to make sense of God’s actions in the world and people’s reactions to God. And so the Biblical text is most often of the type, “This is what God is like.” This is the kind of God that God is. It is also sometimes about us. There are a lot of moral proclamations and ethical proclamations that say how we ought to live, and especially how we ought to live as followers of Jesus. But especially when Jesus is talking, he is so often talking not about we need to do or must do, but about God is doing and what is God is like. He often is saying, “This is who God is. This is what God is like.”

And God is the One who seeks us out!

God is one who looks for us. Who wants to be in relationship with us. Who wants to find us. God seeks us out, and has already sought us out. God has already sought us out. We will sing later in Amazing Grace, “I was lost but now am found”. And not maybe so much about us finding ourselves, or us needing to come to the realization of how lost we are, or us needing to do something majestic or great or holy or whatever so that God will finally come to us. A realization that we have been found all along, and we just didn’t know it. Or were not willing to accept it. “Lost” in that sense. The sense of thinking that we are lost, even though God knew exactly where we were and knows exactly who we are.

This passage starts with Jesus eating with sinners. Some of the religious folk get upset with him because one is not supposed to eat with sinners. Well, if one is not supposed to eat with sinners, then one is eating all alone all the time. And even then, one is still eating with a sinner. You can’t win that one.

Jesus is eating with sinners. He found them! He sought them out. He sought these people out, and he ate with them. Not to berate them or insult them or to attack them. But simply to eat with them. To be with them. To be present.

There is in this, then, a compulsion for us to do the same. To also go and eat with sinners. Or to be, if we want to be truly honest with ourselves, to realize that we are Those People. Jesus eats with us. “Those Sinners” aren’t just the people that we point to or kick to the curb, they are us. Jesus eats with us. We, too, are also sinners. We are no better than whoever we want to demonize. IT seems every generation or two we have a new group of people that get labeled as the More Extreme Sinners Than Anyone Else. That changes through time, though there are some constants. It might be immigrants, or gays and lesbians, people with tattoos or a lot of piercings, those who use profane or foul language, the kind of language that we don’t like, drinkers, gamblers, addicts, sex workers, homeless, thieves... whatever the group is, whatever group we feel the need to pick on and say, “Well, at least we are not like them!” Truth is, they are no different than us, really. And Jesus ate with them.

And Jesus eats with us.

Jesus is with us. Jesus has sought us, and found us. It is whether we recognize that. And to be willing to see Jesus at our table. To see Jesus among us. And Jesus with us. And if we are willing to let others be Jesus at our table with us.

I think of our street ministry. That is a big part of our street ministry. It is not about us going out to be Jesus in order to save “these people”, but it is us being willing to go out and let them be Jesus for us.

To let others be Jesus for us.

It is easy to see the states of other people being lost and of not living in a godly way. Not always so easy to see it in us. And that is just part of being human. Not worth beating yourself up over, but it is good to be aware of. We are lost in the sense that we do live life imperfectly. None of us are perfect. None of do everything right. We all make mistakes. That is the one thing we share as human people, as part of this great family of humanity. We all make mistakes. We all make errors. And we all, like the Hebrew people out in the desert, we all make gods for ourselves as we go through life, of many different kinds. We all do that.

Bu the Good News is that Jesus eats with us anyway. Or, I like to think, Jesus eats with us BECAUSE of that. That’s why Jesus eats with us! Because we make mistakes. That doesn’t drive Jesus away, that drives Jesus ever closer to us, to want to be more and more with us. And Jesus joins us. Not for judgment, not to condemn, not to show wrath. But Jesus joins us because we are his people.

He has found us, because we have never been lost to him.

We may lose ourselves. We may lose ourselves, but we are never lost to God.


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