A sermon on Luke 15 v. 1 – 10, first published in the Baptist Times on November 5th 2009
The sermon outline
Last year a war of words broke out on the double-decker buses. On the one side was Professor Richard Dawkins and his advert stating that there is ‘probably no God’. On the other were various Christian groups, including the one which emblazoned buses with the message that ‘you are going to hell’ and offering a phone number to call. I suspect few people rang it! Whenever we talk about ‘the lost’ it can be profoundly irritating, or even offensive, to those outside the church – so what do we really mean?
As we read this collection of stories in Luke 15, we must conclude a number of things. The first is that the sheep are genuinely lost. To say that does not mean that they have necessarily wandered off deliberately. Nor does it imply any diminution in their value. Indeed according to the stories of the lost sheep and lost coin their vale has gone up – since they are being sought with such vigour.
The second thing we notice is that God is actively looking for them. In every story here the picture is of a determined, costly and prolonged search. Even the father in the prodigal son story is looking out, which is why he spots his son so quickly. We are also left in no doubt that heaven will rejoice when the lost are found.
- To the people who were listening the idea of looking for a lost coin or a lost sheep made perfect sense, but the idea of God looking for lost sheep outside Israel was offensive.
- The label ‘lost’ for those who have not been redeemed is an unusual one in the Bible. What are some alternatives?
- Does the vigour of the shepherd looking for his sheep or the woman looking for her lost coin reflect the energy which churches devote to outreach?
- Think back through a year in church life – has the greatest rejoicing been sparked by finding the lost, or by something else?
“For each of us there are people we care deeply about, who are as valuable as they ever were or ever could be, but they are lost. We sense that on the spiritual landscape they are far from home and unable to chart their bearings or to see God on the horizon.”