July 9-10, 2011
“Lost and Found”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For the most part, we have lost our ability to rejoice.
A women has 10 100 bills and loses one. She sweeps the house and searches until she finds it. And when she does, she is a wreck. She locks it away in a safe place. She does not rejoice. She frets over what nearly happened and what might have been.
Think of the mother who briefly loses her child in the mall. Does she rejoice when he is returned? Does she gather her neighbors for a party in the child's honor? Of course not. She scolds the child for wandering off . She cries not for joy but for fear and frustration.
We cannot rejoice because we are afraid. We are afraid because we love this world and its pleasures above all things. That greed and lust fill our hearts with fear and bend us into ourselves. We fear loss of this stuff because we do not trust our Father in heaven. We are afraid that either He does not know what is best or is not powerful enough to make it happen, or worst of all, that He doesn't really care.
The Lord Jesus Christ has come to earth seeking the lost sheep of the tribe of Adam. The economics of heaven don't make much sense to the likes of Donald Tru,p. I know what you're thinking: Donald Trump and his fellows don't make any sense. OK. But our economics at least tries to be reasonable, to be predictable, to be mathematically sound. The economics of heaven begin without a beginning. How can you count or measure when you don't know where to start? Then it moves to 1+1+1 = 1 or 3, but not really, really 1+1+1 = something inexpressible (which is to say unthinkable) so we coin a new word, “Trinity.” And if that doesn't set your head spinning, the greatest mystery, the most incomprehensible of all things, is the unfair and disproportionate trade of our sins for the Lord's righteousness. Who strikes a bargain like that? If we stole it, took it by conquest, by power, with rape and violence, that would make sense. We know how that works. But we lost the war. We had no power, no strength. However bold our desires in the war to be take what was God's we failed. We should be the victims of conquest, have our women drug into the back rooms, our children humiliated and abused, thrown into slavery in front of their fathers. Our Lord holds all the power. We deserve nothing but punishment. But He gives His Kingdom to us who tried to steal it. He gives it for free while taking on the punishment and wrath that we deserve. And then, on top of all that, as though that weren't crazy enough, He keeps doing it. He keeps giving, forgiving, blessing. He gives more than we need. Our cups overflow. He is seemingly wasteful because His love is extravagant and beyond our counting.
In this system it makes a bit more sense for a shepherd who lost a single sheep to abandon the 99 for it. That is not what we would do. We would get the 99 home safely first. Because we are ever afraid of “throwing good money after bad.” We wouldn't want to find the lost sheep only to lose all the rest. But so also we don't pay for labor not performed. We don't give away our lives and livelihoods to rebellious sons who want us dead so they can party. We don't die for our cattle. We slaughter them for meat and clothing. But Our Lord, though one of us, is not us. He goes after the lost sheep. For in the economy of heaven, there are no acceptable losses, no collateral damage. No one is left behind. One lost sheep is unacceptable. Every lost sheep is found, no matter what the cost.
Again, this is not our way. We count the cost and figure out the profit margin. We take our risks. And even when we do something akin to what the Lord does, we do it with fear, with a firm eye on what is in it for us. What happens when your son comes out of rehab, for the fifth time, and comes home? Do you throw a party? Do you tell the world? No. You are not only ashamed, you are afraid. You want it to stick, but you don't know if it will. So you hedge your bets. You are careful. You are supportive, but not extravagant. Not so the Lord. He is extravagant. He is ridiculous, radical, extreme. He invites us back without fear or disappointment, and though the Pharisees and scribes might grumble and mock Him for you, He is not ashamed of you. He does not hold out. He does lock the liquor cabinet or institute a new set of rules. He and the holy angels rejoice without reservation and without fear. They believe in you.
It is not merely that you are valuable to Him, that He loves you and wants you back. It is that He is not angry with you for getting lost, no matter how many times you have done so before. He does not hold a grudge. He does not live in fear. He does not think you will probably do it again. He counts you and sees you as perfectly holy and innocent. He is glad to give away His Kingdom, to hold a feast, to be with you. Because in Him you are worthy and He loves you. He and His angels rejoice in your repentance and faith. Their confidence is not foolish. Rather it rests firmly in the strength of the Lord's promise and grace.
For the Lord Jesus Christ did not die in vain. He has risen from the dead as the Victor over Hell on your behalf. Hell has lost its claim on you. Justice has nothing to ask or demand of you. There is no one left to accuse you. You are free, holy, righteous, and innocent by the authority and love of the Lord Himself. He has placed His Name upon you. Who can stand against you? He will not forget or forsake you. He gets what He wants and He wants you. He will come after you. He will find you. He will keep you.
Thus does He provide sustenance for your journey in His Holy Body and Blood. He has found you. Now He holds the feast. His Body and His Blood are both the feast and the way home. The Sacrament of the Altar is the goal and the means. It is Jesus, alive from the grave, giving Himself to you for you, giving away His Kingdom.
That is the cause of great rejoicing in heaven. Let it be the same for us. In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.