Text: Luke 15: 1-10
I don’t always know what it is that I am looking for. Often I find myself seeking something not knowing what exactly I was missing. From time to time, I feel homesick. There is a certain kind of food that I’d love to taste, a certain atmosphere I can feel relaxed with, and a particular culture in the country I grew up in where I can breathe easy. Anyone who feels homesick can think that the best medicine for this sickness is to go and visit the place they miss most. Well, it can bring satisfaction to a point. What I have learned about my homesickness is that it’s a much deeper issue. It’s more about spiritual yearning which is not culturally or geographically bounded. The home I miss is not on the map; perhaps it’s deeply hidden in my heart, and there is no place like it. My instinct to solve the problem of my homesickness is to eat the food I miss, to visit the places I miss or to contact the people I miss. I’ve learned over the last 13 years that I must go deeper. I have come to a realization that there is a connection between my homesickness and my yearning for God, or more precisely God’s yearning for me. It is when I feel disconnected from God that I begin to understand that God has already been looking to find me long before I even realized my hunger and thirst.
Isaiah’s invitation to abundant life rings true especially in the context of homesickness, “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” If we ever feel disconnected, or if we ever struggle with a sense of belonging in this sometimes strange world, we can take our yearning as a sign of God’s attempt to reach out to us.
Today’s passage clearly shows how our yearning for God leads to the discovery of how much God is yearning for us. “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus.” It is those who don’t belong, who are marginalized in the society that start coming to Jesus because they yearn something the world couldn’t give them. Their sense of inadequacy leads them to search for a deeper meaning and purpose in life, and eventually to be found by God, who was searching for the lost ones long before they began to embark their journeys. Whereas those who find themselves in the centres of power begin to grumble. Their sense of self-sufficiency unfortunately makes them stay where they are. They are interested in maintaining their way of living and the way things are so much so that they can’t put themselves at the receiving end of the radical hospitality, and therefore can’t be found by God.
In response to their complaint, Jesus tells these parables – the story of the lost sheep, and the story of the lost coin. They are almost identical. They both talk about the great sadness over the lost one and the great joy upon finding it. What’s interesting about the stories is that neither the coin nor the lost sheep may fully realize their circumstances as the one who is lost. The one who is most anxious and concerned and therefore goes after what is lost is the shepherd or the woman. The one who lost initiates the search to find it. A simple yet profound truth especially when we realize that it’s not us but God who has lost whatever we may feel we lost, and therefore it’s God who never stops searching, working and engaging.
I’ve always thought that my journey has been about losing something constantly one thing after another. I thought I’ve lost the connection to my family, friends, my sense of place, my language and my culture. But I begin to understand that my narrative is only half true. I have forgotten about God who, like the shepherd or the woman, has never given up on finding me. The truth is that I am the one who has been lost, and therefore to be found by God. With that realization comes a joyful celebration to which everyone is invited. “Rejoice with me, for I have found what I had lost.”
I look around and see so many faces who are dealing with a sense of loss – the loss of loved ones, the loss of ability, the loss of memory, the loss of culture, the loss of community, and the list goes on. We can admit that we are the ones who are lost, and therefore we are found. We are as a church also dealing with a sense of loss – the loss of our friends, the loss of young people, the loss of vibrant and thriving ministry, and we worry about our future. But I wonder if we are asking the wrong question. Jesus doesn’t mean that we have to go and search for what’s missing. We are not the shepherd. It is when we put ourselves at the receiving end that we can begin to see the whole picture. It is we who are lost and therefore we can be found by God. No matter what it is that we feel we lost, it is an indication that God is reaching out to us in a new way. If that’s not the good news, I don’t know what else can be. Any of our attempts to soothe our hunger or thirst can satisfy to a point. But the ultimate satisfaction can only be found in God’s rejoicing over us. Do any of you feel lost sometimes like I do? Let us rejoice. For our God has already started working, searching and finding us. We are lost and found.