Parables of the Lost – March 13, 2016
March 13, 2016
Jesus never drove a car. (Although sometimes I wonder what kind of car he would have driven! What do you think?) But he never did. And I’m pretty sure none of his disciples did, either. But if he had, I’ll bet this parable of the “Lost Coin” would have been “The Parable of the Lost Keys!”
Actually I’m pretty good with car keys. I’ve actually owned two cars now that only had one key. No spare! So if I had dropped the one key down a sewer grate, or into a river or something… just imagine! And they both had those computer chips in them! So nothing would have started the car! I would have been done!
I have managed to lose other keys, though! I don’t keep all my keys on one ring, mainly because they tend to wear holes in my pockets when there are too many of them hooked together. So I have my “building keys” on a ring, and I once lost them – for about a year! The last I remembered having them was at a funeral. So I gave Tommy Tomlinson a hard time every time I saw him! “Hey Tommy, have you found my keys yet? I’m sure they’re in your limo!”
I did find them – eventually. They were in the drawer right next to the drawer when I usually keep them! And what a relief! Have you ever had that feeling? You couldn’t find your keys. You know they were around somewhere. They couldn’t have gone far! You had that frustrated, exasperated feeling! But then, you found them! And what a great feeling that is! It’s like the Phillies had won the World Series all over again!!!
So yes, it was lost keys that inspired this message. Actually it was one key! Last month I was heading out to the Ash Wednesday service at Bensalem Methodist, and I took just the one key to my back door. After all, I didn’t have to get into our other buildings for any reason, so why carry all those keys, right?
Well, I got home after the service, reached in my pocket, and… You guessed it. No key! I managed to get in. But then I grabbed a flashlight and I went out to my car and I looked for that key! I looked under the seat. I looked down that space beside the door – the one that’s full of helicopters from the maple trees! I looked all around the ground on the parking lot, in case it popped out of my pocket when I pulled out something else. It was driving me crazy! Finally, I took a deep breath, went back in, and dreamt that night about changing the lock on the back door!!
So, fast forward to the second Lenten Service, a couple of weeks later. It was at… Bensalem Methodist. I walked in and asked Pastor Bob, “Hey do you guys have a ‘Lost and Found’?” And he said, “Why? What have you lost?” I said, “A key.” He smiled, walked me over to a table, and there it was! (And the Phillies won again!) And immediately I thought about these “Parables of the Lost.”
When we’ve lost something, why do we search so diligently? Why do we “sweep the house” – like the woman in this parable? Why do we leave the 99 sheep and go and look for the one? The answer is, value! We value that thing, that coin, that sheep, that key! Jesus knew that. He tapped that inner sense of value in those people’s lives, just like he taps ours. And he used that sense of value to tell them about the kingdom.
These parables were an attempt to get the people to see that the kingdom God, the kingdom he was trying to tell them about, was to be valued! Maybe you remember another parable Jesus gave us. He said that the kingdom of God was like the man who found a great treasure buried in a field. And when he found it, he sold everything he had and bought that field! In yet another, he told the people about the merchant who, when he found the one pearl of great price, sold all he had and bought it! Jesus said the kingdom was like that! It was like the things those people placed value on in their lives, that were worth searching for, that were worth selling everything to obtain!
As we read these stories, as we think about them, you know what I’m going to ask! “Do we think of the kingdom of God in that way?” Do we see being a part of God’s kingdom as having that kind of value?
That’s a great question for Lent, isn’t it?! It’s too easy to lose sight of the value of our relationship with God and with his kingdom. It’s just like the way we sometimes lose sight of the value of each other! Give some thought to that! Who do you value? Who should you value? Jesus tried to get people to see what it was that they valued. But that wasn’t easy! They were too focused on the value of things on earth, things that moth and rust consume, things that thieves break in and steal, things that get lost and make them crazy looking for.
And it’s the same with us. And I ask you, how do we rediscover – or discover for the first time – the value of the kingdom of God? The first thing is to look for it, or to “look to it,” as we’ve been saying this Lenten season! The psalmist said this. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
Does that mean this man wants to live in the Temple? Of course not. That would get to be a crowded place after a while! But think about what it means to “dwell on” something. It means to “concentrate on,” doesn’t it? It means to “think about,” or to “seek after,” as he said – or to “look to!” That’s an important thing if we’re going to see the value of God’s kingdom!
Then we need to remember! In the book of Deuteronomy, the people were called to remember where they had come from, and what God had done for them. That’s the main theme of that book! Their history and their law was laid out in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. But then there was the book of Deuteronomy, which said, “Remember that other stuff!”
Well, in chapter 6 of Deuteronomy, we have these familiar words. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) “So you don’t forget!
The Jewish people still have those little Mezuzahs on their door frames. The idea of those things, besides being what God commanded them to do, is to remember, and to talk about the Lord and his kingdom! We have one on our door. (We don’t want to take any chances!) Maybe we all should! Because it’s too easy to forget. And the problem isn’t that we simply forget about God’s kingdom. The problem is that we forget about the value of God’s kingdom!
That’s the point in this! Things that are lost, the sheep, the coin – the son, or the sons in the next story – the story of those things is about the value of those things. That’s what I want us to “take away” with us today. Do we recognize, do we remember, do we look to, the value of God’s kingdom?
Eternal God, you have called us to the amazing privilege of being your people – people of your kingdom! Help us to see the incredible value of your kingdom. Help us to seek it like the lost coin or the lost sheep. Help us to know it is the “pearl of great price!” Help us this Lenten season to grow closer to you and to be more “in tune” with your kingdom. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen!