Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
THE LOST AND FOUND DEPARTMENT
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
29 MARCH 1992
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
Preparation Verse: (Psalm 34:4)
I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
Did you ever lose anything?
I suppose that probably all of us have.
We put something away and then forget where we put it; or we leave it somewhere and forget where.
Sometimes when we leave something, someone may actually take it.
Or, hopefully, someone found what we lost, and turned it in, in hopes that the rightful owner might come back and claim it.
But sometimes, if what is turned in doesn't look like it has any value,
someone might even want to throw it out before it has a chance to be claimed.
But, have you ever considered that what we couldn't find was not lost by us, but that it deliberately lost itself, so that we couldn't find it?
Have you ever felt like that?
See – what we lost didn't like our way of life, so it just decided to go its own way.
Now, from the looks on some of your faces, I surmise that you think that what I'm proposing is quite farfetched.
But it's not, for even God has been losing far too many of His possessions from this cause.
In fact, most of God's possessions don't seem to want to stay with Him.
So they go off and get lost.
But God does have a lost and found department, though unlike most lost and found departments, God's has very few possessions that are turned in by others, for they seem to immediately lose themselves again.
The only way God seems to retrieve His lost possessions is when they turn themselves in, because by their own free will, they have decided that they really do want to be with the Lord.
And some of these lost possessions were we who are gathered here today.
God's lost and found department is where the prodigal sons and daughters of this world turn themselves in.
So, let's take a look at this parable of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 15; but to begin with, let's also see from where he tells us this story. Note verses 1-2.
1. Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
2. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
I believe that Jesus is telling us this parable from the lost and found department, don't you?
And those who are supposedly in charge don't think there is any value in what is being turned in.
Because these grumbling Pharisees and the scribes want to be in charge, and they know that the "sinners" gathered around Jesus are turning themselves in, thus by-passing their authority and leadership.
Since the religious leaders are looking at spiritual things from a worldly perspective, and not a heavenly one, Jesus tells this parable in worldly terms, so that they won't miss the true intent of His message.
So let's move on to verse 11-31, and see what He is saying to us.
11. And He said, "A certain man had two sons;
12. and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' And he divided his wealth between them.
13. "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.
Have you noticed that the father didn't lose the son, but that the son decided to lose himself?
The father had provided everything his sons could ever want; but as for this
son, he saw a greener pasture elsewhere.
And because what the father gave him had no real value to him, he squandered it away.
What this son did was foolish, but not altogether irretrievable.
And this is where the love of our Father in heaven shines forth to remind us that what we had is better than what we thought we could get on our own.
He shows us the way to the lost and found department.
14. "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need.
Sometimes God sends us reminders that we don't like to acknowledge.
There were many prodigal sons and daughters in this land, and the famine was a reminder to them of how fragile our lives can be without our heavenly Father, and a prod to send us back.
But sometimes we just don't want to recognize God's reminders for what they are, and we continue to struggle, thinking we can still do it on our own, just as this son is doing.
15. "And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16. And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
Jesus is deliberately using the example of feeding pigs, because pigs were considered to be unclean, according the Law that the Jews were to follow.
And as with this son, sometimes things have to get worse before we will allow the Lord to make them better.
17. "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!
18. 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;
19. "I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men." '
Now he's willing to settle for far less than he had before he left.
He had far more than his father's hired hands had, but he wasn't satisfied. He wanted more.
Now, even what his father's hired hands have looks pretty good.
How much better off we would all be, if we were just thankful for what we have, and quit worrying about what we don't have.
Our Father knows what we need, and when we return to Him, He will receive us.
20. "And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.
21. "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
This young fellow may no longer have his possessions, but so far he hasn't lost his son-ship, even if he thinks he deserves to lose it, for he has returned with a humbled heart.
He turned himself in to the lost and found department, and his father claimed him.
We should also remember this about our relationship with the Lord our God.
22. "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;
23. and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24. for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry.
Remember, that Jesus is telling this story from a worldly perspective, and while God never receives any joy from the suffering and death of any living being, such as the calf, wayward humans do make merry over eating its corpse.
The son certainly didn't deserve this welcome, but it was freely given by his father.
He received a gift of grace, just as we all do when we return to our heavenly Father.
The difference is that with God, His gifts of grace always bring forgiveness and life, and never death.
But there are those who have never strayed this far away, and sometimes they don't like to see this grace poured out so freely.
Such was the case of this son's brother, and the Pharisees who are listening to the parable.
25. "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.
26. "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things might be.
27. "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.'
28. "But he became angry, and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began entreating him.
Doesn't this sound a lot like what the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling about, when they saw Jesus dining with "sinners"?
Jealousy and anger are also forms of turning away.
And what the father is doing is also grace, but from a worldly perspective.
But now this son is not quite ready to accept that his brother deserves this grace.
The fact is that no one deserves grace. It's a free gift that we don't deserve.
It's unmerited favor.
29. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends;
30. but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.'
What this son is saying is that he deserves the father's favor because he has earned it by his past actions.
But this is not a place for grace; and without grace, much of the blessing is lost.
Thus, in a spiritual sense, this son is also someone lost, and needs to be found.
So, note how the father answers him:
31. "And he said to him, 'My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32. 'But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.' "
We lose ourselves because we want more than we have.
We lose ourselves because we lack compassion and love.
We lose ourselves because we don't want to listen to the truth.
In closing, I want you to consider another piece of grace, love, and compassion that will have even a greater effect on you, and will go far in keeping you from getting lost – if you are willing to accept it.
The making of merry in this parable was at the expense and suffering of another: the fattened calf.
And that animal was lost to all future days.
In God's perfect world to come, where no one will ever again become lost, and where our joy will exceed everything experienced by this family and any of us, there will be no death – not even of an animal.
We can help bring this perfect world into existence on earth as it is in heaven, if we really want to and pray for in the Lord's prayer.
We can help the animals from losing anything, too – especially their lives.
And as a result of this increase in our own sensitivity, we will be less likely to get lost, also.
Your Comments are welcome
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