Lost and Found

Today, we are centering on lost and found, or being lost and being found. There are two kinds of being lost.: voluntarily being lost or wanting to be lost, and the type of being lost that is thrust upon us.

Yesterday, my family and I went to a corn maze. One was too hard for the kids, but they had several others they could go through and be intentionally lost. The first maze was made out of bamboo. Bamboo can grow very tall and it doesn't take much to not be able to see through it. This bamboo was a good twelve feet high, and we went through this maze twice. The first time was about 1:45 in the afternoon. The sun was high in the sky and we were able to go through the maze with the kids in about forty minutes. Later that afternoon, a friend joined us. About 5:00, the kids said, "Let's take our friend over into this maze; that was an easy maze." We thought, "No problem." Well, the sun had moved. And if you know anything about bamboo, the leaves get heavier toward the top. As we started into this maze Luke, who was on my shoulders, said, "Dark, dark!" If you stepped five feet into that maze, it became difficult to see, and the further we went the harder it was to see and paths looked different this time. It was not as easy to see if a path would be helpful or not. So we wandered, and we wandered. When we got to a point where the little station was, there was a big round circle and a hole of light coming in. And we said, "Ah, that's where we need to go." I don't know how many times we wandered around trying to get back to where the circle was.

After awhile, the experience of willfully being lost was getting old. The children were starting to get tired. We had been there much of the day and we were saying, "Well, we have to get through these last few." And then we had to start asking for help. "How did you get over there?" We could see through the bamboo to a station and realized that we'd tried to get to it two or three times walking and walking through and not making it. Eventually, we did find our way. We made it to every station and got the color on each finger we were supposed to get. And I was very joyful when I realized the second time that I at least knew the way out. So we made it out, and we all cheered. And this time it was probably over an hour to do the same maze that took us about forty minutes the first time. We didn't go in a third time, as you can imagine. But it was kind of fun. And, you know, there's something about us as people, when we feel safe and secure, sometimes we want to experiment a little with getting a little bit lost here or there. "Let's go do a corn maze." That's fun, it's exciting. So there's that kind of getting lost that's a little bit on the voluntary side.

Another type of voluntarily getting lost is when we start doing things that we don't normally do or things that we might feel are not really good for us, but we're in a different place and a different space with different people, and we try things or do things that we wouldn't normally do. And sometimes that can lead us down a path of getting a little bit lost, losing a little bit of who we are as a person if we go in different directions that we're not used to. Sometimes that could be for the better, but sometimes it could be for the worse.

Look at all the problems in our society. We sometimes say, "If you try that, it will be a slippery slope to something else." And while that might be true for some people, it's probably not for others. But when we find ourselves wandering away from who we are or from who we want to be, sometimes we get to a point where we are lost and we have to try to find our way back. In the bamboo maze, we were trying to make decisions about how to find our way through the rest of this maze. But there was another way...cheating! There were little fences in there, but there were holes in some where the bamboo was growing, and there was a way to get out of there by cheating our way through. Though that would not be ethical, we did see other people doing it. And we could have made that choice, to do something just to get through because we were starting to get a little bit annoyed with this experience of being lost. And I wonder if when we're lost in other ways or we're lost in other things that we don't normally do, if we sometimes also consider making choices that will not help us in the situation, but may in turn make us a little more lost.

That's two examples of willfully being lost because we're making the deliberate choice to be lost, and along the way we're making deliberate choices which could, in turn, get us a little bit more lost.

Now, there's the other kind of being lost when being lost is thrust upon you, when a family member or someone close to you passes away suddenly. Have you ever felt that sense of being lost when someone who is an integral part of your life is now no longer there? That's a very painful loss, but it's a painful way of being lost, and that is sometimes thrust upon us. In this life which has no guaranties, one guaranty we have is that at some point we're going to feel that type of being lost, and it can be a lonely place.

But there's good news because in all the types of being lost, there is always a place where you can be found. There is always someone who is looking for you, trying to bring you back to the sense of who you are and who you have been created to be...and that is God. In the Hebrew testament today, we hear that God's people are lost and the Prophet Jeremiah is proclaiming to the people what's going to happen. There's going to be desolation. And if we read between the lines, the people have changed their loyalties, they have moved away from God. They are wandering and they are lost, and God is displeased. But the word of grace that comes out of that is even though all of this desolation is going to take place, things will not end. God is going to give it another try. And we hear that as a theme throughout the Old Testament, the people being lost, something coming upon them until they cry out to God and change their ways. They come back and then everything is okay again for awhile. Usually a new covenant is established. So we hear that sense of being lost and found throughout the entirety of the Hebrew testament.

Moving into the New Testament, isn't it amazing that, in the epistle lesson, it's the Apostle Paul who's reminding us about being lost and found. One of the primary persecutors of Christians was Paul (when he was Saul), when he was chasing after Christians and trying to bring them to justice. At that time, many Christians were tortured and killed, and Saul was a huge part of that. Even this man, who seemed to be so lost, proclaimed the wonder of God, that being the foremost sinner, even persecuting Christians on that road to Damascus, Christ called out to Saul. In the midst of being blind, he saw something. He saw himself and he found God, and Christ found him. Paul then becomes one of the premier apostles to the gentiles, someone who was such a sinner and was so lost had been found by God and now became an instrument of God's peace and presence and love and grace to a huge segment of the world.

What wonder there is in the grace of being found when one can be even as lost as Paul, or even as lost as whatever situation can happen to us in our society, in our time, it's never too lost that God can't find you or that you can't find God. And God is waiting with open arms. And when each of us is found...and several of us are found over and over again in a lifetime...there is rejoicing in God's realm, rejoicing that one of us has come back home, one of us who has been lost has been found again.

Now, I have good news for everyone who is sitting in here. The fact that you're sitting in church today, or anyone sitting in any church or religious setting today who's intentionally seeking out God, is found. All of these people are found. You might not feel found. There may be difficulties in your life that are a struggle, but I can tell you this. God's grace is there for each of us. And God is celebrating the fact that all of us are gathered here today, willfully being found. And we are found.

Part of the commission we have as followers of Christ is to find the lost and help them to be found. So we have homework for this week. Like all the kids who have started back to school, we have homework. And that is simply to go out this week and find someone you know who might be a little lost and just help them be found, whether it be through God's loving presence in you or any intentional type of invitation to talk to them about what it is that is so hurtful and painful to them. But let us do that with a measure of knowing the grace that we ourselves have received and a measure of the joy that there is when even one is found.

Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve