Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sermon: Lost and Found

         The other week I was trying to videotape the sermon for our Youtube channel
—but it was one of those days
—every time I got into the sermon someone would pop into the church before I could finish, the water meter guy, two people looking for the church next door, another person looking for Mr. Subs…
         And by the 4th take, I’m just trying to get through it once, and again, the door opens—and there was Isabella Hernandez, the Pastor of New Covenant, one of the Churches that shares our building.
         She was here trying to find one of her parishioner’s work ID cards. We swept the sanctuary, and eventually dug through our Lost and Found box…
         Have you seen the kind of things in a lost and found box?
         Broken bits of jewelry, used gum returned to its wrapper, gloves with out mates—it makes the island of the misfit toys look like a vacation destination.
         And today, I want us to consider being Lost and being Found.

         Have you ever been lost?
         Have you lost your way, following after this or that, stunned by the sights and sounds, and soon enough far from your perfect pasture, you look up and ask,
“how’d I get here?”
You look up and see there is no one to guide you, and no one to notice you’re gone…
         Perhaps you’re lost among so many, 1 among 100 sheep.
Who will find you, there, lost in the crowd, crowded out, no one to pay attention to you, to care for you, to notice you…
I’d imagine this is a fear of some of our young folk going back to school
—what if something goes wrong, but no one has time to help me make it right?
I forget a locker combination, or don’t know where my class is, or have no idea what a quadratic equation is—it’ll be all over… I’ll be lost.

         Have you ever been lost?
         Have you been abandoned, discarded and forgotten—pushed to the side corner of a drawer and never found again.
Picked up and considered, and then put back down again, they were done with you.
         Over time the dust builds up and you start to believe maybe, maybe you deserve to be left behind.
         Forgotten, it happens to whole generations, and groups of people—and it’s happening to you
—sometimes when you emerge in their sight they won’t make eye contact, you are an eye sore, they pretend you aren’t even there, its like you are invisible.

         Have you ever been lost?
         Lost, maybe even because you don’t want to be found. Everyone else is moving at a pace you just can’t appreciate. You look and see those around you and say “I’m not like you” or even “I’m better than you” and so you isolate yourself, maybe you become alienated and bitter
You pull away from everyone and see it as a virtue.

Have you ever been lost?
         Because, I want to tell you about a God who goes after the lost… who, when Pharisees and scribes and all those who would tell you to get lost, say so
—he comes and eats with you… he finds you.

         Have you seen those moments, when somebody is isolated, choosing to keep everyone at arms length because they know no one will measure up… and maybe think that of themselves as well,
Have you seen when that hurt they have is healed, when someone or something is able to reach across those barriers,
and soothe and transform that hurt into a whole heart,
when those barriers are disguarded and old hurt feelings are put away and new relationship can grow!
—So too God!
God, in many ways moves like that in our lives, taking those hard places in our hearts and softening them and bringing us back into relationship with all of God’s beloved creation.

         Have you seen a woman slipping a nylon stocking onto a vacuum cleaner hose and upending the whole house, to suck up her lost ring without sending it into the bowls of the vacuum?
She does this even as her husband pulls apart pipe after pipe on the off chance that the ring went down the drain.
         Or, as we remember happened those 15 years ago
—remember those fire fighters, digging down through the rubble to find people even as the soles of their boots burnt,
and after the first couple days,
after hope of life grew unlikely,
they kept at it,
digging to pull bodies from the rubble and return some sort of dignity to those buried so badly, and also to retrieve some sort of order out of that chaos.
—So too God!
God, searches for us,
digging down for us even as his hands grow bloody and weary,
even as she overturns all of creation for our sake.

         Have you seen people waiting at the airport—leaning, in rapt expectation, against the glass, and leaning so close to the entrances as to get a stern warning from the TSA
—waiting to glimpse their loved one.
         Or have you seen a family seeking out a lost pet, stopping their mini-van by every pedestrian to ask if they’ve seen Fido, “Lost Dog” signs stapled to every telephone pole, every neighbor interviewed with the intensity of an over zealous border patrol agent.
         Have you seen how “Empty Nest” mothers get when their kid comes home
—swooning and talking about everything being whole again
—showing her kid back to their childhood bedroom—a virtual shrine.
—So too God!
         God presses his nose against the airport glass so that he might glimpse us,
sends an angelic dragnet out, passing out “Lost Sinner,” signs to anyone who will take a copy, and loves all the lost with the deep madness of a mother.

         God is searching.
God is risking rebuke by all those who seem to be found.
God is going after the alienated, abandoned, and adrift.
God is finding the lost.

God is digging through that lost and found box, passed the odd glove and goopy gum wrapper
and pulling out an identification card that says Child of God!