Aloha Friday Message – September 9, 2016 – Lost and Found

1637AFC090916 – Lost and Found

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Luke 15:10 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Does it seem to you that the calendar may have gone bonkers? How could it already be the Friday after Labor Day? There are already Christmas decorations in some of the stores. Halloween costumes are selling fast at COSTCO. Grocery stores are advertizing deep discounts on turkeys and hams. Apple released another “must-have” version of the iPhone “just in time for holiday giving (and getting!) What is wrong with me? This year it feels like time is going by me so fast that I am lost in the shuffle. I just cannot sync up with the World and keep track of all the stuff that’s happening, and the stuff I’m supposed to be gathering for my “happiness and peace of mind.” I’m moving in slow motion, and just can’t keep up any more. Motion is relative, though, and I need to remember that so I can make sense out of my perceptions about Sunday’s Gospel.

The fifteenth chapter of Luke contains one of the best-known parables in Jesus’ ministry – the Prodigal Son. It also has two other parables – the lost sheep and the lost coin. The setting is familiar – Jesus is surrounded by tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees are clucking their tongues about the riffraff Jesus attracts. In the first two stories, possessions are lost. The sheep is lost because it wandered off of its own volition, and the shepherd risks his own safety to seek it out and retrieve it. The coin is lost because it is misplaced or perhaps it dropped and rolled away; nonetheless it is gone, but not as an act of will but rather by accident. The son is lost because of his own stubbornness and greed, but returns when he comes to his senses and decides to repent so he can return to his father. He went out to make his place in the World, and the World rejected him. He was lost but then was found. He was dead but then was alive. He was so enchanted by the idea of fast living that he became out of sync with what was important – his home and family. There are so many lessons in this one chapter, but today I want to look behind the page and see some of the things we might have  considered.

We know that all three stories end in rejoicing. We know that friends and family are called together to rejoice with the one who was searching and found the object of that search. We know the story of the Lost Son and the Loving Father is about repentance. When the son repents and returns home, he learns that the life he discarded is still waiting for him, preserved by his loving father. He is restored to his family and his father brings in friends and relatives to a feast to share his joy. His other son, though, is miffed that his brother is back and treated like royalty. He refuses to enter into the feast. How many of us do the same – refuse to rejoice and enter the feast? How can we refuse to share our joy with the community around us? Come to think of it, why should they care?

Why should they care? What’s in it for them? They didn’t lose a sheep, or a coin, or a pile of money taken by an errant son. Do we care about the good things and hard things, the lost things and the found things, or the people and places we share with one another? Well, unless we are really miserable misanthropes who hate everyone around us, of course we care – not only about our stuff, not only about our relationships, but also about the stuff others have and for other persons as well. It’s a really simple thing – we care about others who experience loss because we have experienced loss. We’ve also experienced finding what we lost; some of us have also experienced being found after being lost. Who among us hasn’t known that moment of panic in the department or grocery store when we looked up and mom or dad was gone? Or what parent has never searched – wide-eyed and heart-pounding – for a child at the park or the beach or the store? All of us have lost stuff that was dear to us, things that held deep personal, emotional value. I am sure all of us have also experienced that moment of joyful relief when the child is found, the parents are located, the stuff is returned, and love conquers the fear of separation from whatever we hold important. That is the tagline Jesus uses as he tells these stories.

  • What man among you having a hundred sheep …
  • Or what woman having ten coins …
  • A man had two sons, and the younger one …

Yes, we rejoice when things turn around and grief becomes joy. We understand that Jesus shows us that joy when he says –

  • I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
  • In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
  • … your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

In previous posts we have looked at the word repentance. You may recall it means “to turn around.” Jesus and John the Baptist used the word μετάνοια, – metanoia {met-an’-oy-ah}. It is a change of heart, a change of mind, or a change of direction as in a one-eighty turn. A closely-related word is μετανοέω – metanoéō {met-an-o-eh’-o}. Both come from the same root meanings meta – above, beyond, higher; and noein to think from nuosmind. So, metanoia is to move beyond where our hearts and minds are to a new paradigm, a new way of thinking and feeling and seeing everything in life. When we repent, we have a change of mind – not a renewing of mind (See Romans 1:12). Another way to think of it is we quash, break, nullify, defeat, or conquer a temptation that is repeatedly before us; we break a bad habit; we realign our values-system so that it aligns more closely with God’s values. WE make an effort to sin less even though we know we can never be sinless. Repentance restores our relationship with God, and often it also restores our relationships with community, family, and friends. It gives back to us the whatever or the whomever we lost because of sin; it even gives us back to us. It’s not a matter of time – how long we are away, or of intensity – how greatly we’ve sinned. It is a matter of turning around and going back, repenting. There’s a flip side to that, and that’s what is behind the page.

ProdigalBrotherRepentance restores us back to God. Intellectually, we know God doesn’t move away from us, he doesn’t take off to some mountaintop and sulk because we’ve decided to ignore him. No, he stands at the ready, eager for us to turn around and say, “Father! Abba! I’m back!” We have come back to God, and suddenly we discover God is “back with us.” While we are lost in sin, we cannot encounter God, our Loving Father who is so crazy in love with us that he can’t wait to get us back. He watches for us, reaches for us, comes out to meet us. He helps us find that lost sheep and the coin that escaped our control. Those are things and he cares about them, too; but he cares about us more! He loves us. Well, duh! Of course he does. He made us for the sake of love. He also redeemed us for the sake of love, and when we accept that redemption, God and the angels in heaven (and saints, too, I reckon) rejoice as a community over our repentance. Why? Because that means they will get to share eternity with us – with God and the angels and saints. But there’s one angel that will not rejoice. He’s the angel that says (and is always telling us), “What’s in it for me?” What do we get out of all that “Alleluia” shouting?

We get to rejoice! We get to shout ALLELUIA with El Shaddai Olam, with the angels and saints, and with our community of repentant believers who are washed in the blood of The Lamb. Now, we really should say something here about the word “prodigal.” We have somehow gotten the idea it means something like runaway – the runaway son. Prodigal actually means wasteful, reckless, uncontrolled, and extravagant. It was the boy’s extravagant lifestyle that drew him away from his Loving Father; but it was the extravagant love of his father that restored his life to him. His brother, however, grew angry and refused to rejoice. “I’ve served you faithfully for many years while this worthless bum went out and blew a fortune on everything you taught us to avoid. And now you welcome him back as if nothing ever happened? What’s wrong with you!?” ʻŌmea, we know what’s wrong here. The older son, the responsible one who did everything his father asked, expected to receive what was in it for him. He’d put a lot into his dad’s fields, and felt cheated. He’d fulfilled his obligations; his brother had not. He did not understand the purpose and scope of a father’s love. The elder son perhaps helped his father more out of expected obligation than out of love. Jesus’ message is that our Loving Father isn’t like that. Jesus came to us to find us, to restore us and our relationship with God and each other. He came looking for us, remember?

Luke 19:10 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.

1 Timothy 1:15 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost.

Sunday’s Gospel focuses on the loss of things and then on the loss of relationships. When we focus on things, we are also lost, because we should focus on our encounter with God, who – as our true Loving Father – waits for us expectantly to enfold us into his extravagant embrace. That is where WE should want to be found, in our RELATIONSHIP with God. We encounter the presence and power of Christ whenever and wherever we share him by serving others. If we are lost, we have separated our lives from that power and presence, we have wandered off or rolled away or willfully turned our backs on the extravagant love of a God who came to find and restore life to us by giving us his life. That’s what’s in it for us – Eternal Life. The very first thing Jesus said when he began his ministry is found in the Gospel of Mark: Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news. When we do that, we go “off the clock” that insists on what the world demands and our lives move at the pace of Eternal Life. “Earthly rantings then will bore you,” and you can rest in the palm of God’s hand because you are home. Next time you hear yourself thinking, “I don’t get anything out of church,” stop and think about what God, his angels, and your community receive through your being there. You were lost but now are found. You were dead but now are alive.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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