Maybe you have heard the joke about the airplane that was flying from Vancouver to Toronto early one morning. On route during to Toronto, the plane crashed in a horrible ball of fire right on the 49th Parallel, the border between Canada and the United States. The question was asked of the officials overseeing the awful scene, “Where are we going to bury the survivors?”
Of course one does not bury the survivors. And that seems to be the point that Jesus is making to the Pharisees in telling these series of parables in Luke 15. “Sinners” are coming to Jesus: the least the last and most definitely the lost of the nation are coming to Jesus because they want and need to be found. Being lost is not just about finding one’s self. Being lost or getting lost is to cause and face utter and total destruction. And people are coming to Jesus that they might be found. They are coming to Jesus because they can see that life is different with Jesus. Following and being with Jesus means that things in your life can and will change. Your life will find a new purpose and that such a life is going in a new direction and often in opposition to the life that has been previously lived.
Religious people tend to not realize this very thing. They are often satisfied with their lives: earning a descent wage by holding a respectable job, owning a home, has the right kind of life, clothes and food to eat. Such people are glad to show up at Church services on time sitting in their special spots showing up to see who else is showing up and what they are like. Such people don’t need to be found because they don’t know they are lost.
Jesus notes in his stories that there is only one sheep and one coin that is lost. What most don’t consider carefully is that the Shepherd leaves the flock in the care of hired hands and goes to seek that one sheep. There are risks, for the sheep, the Shepherd and for the flock, who, complaining that the black sheep is gone again from the flood and the shepherd is seeking her. All the while the rest of the flock are muttering, “it is all baaaaad, yet agaaain!”
A powerful image of the stories is comparing God to a woman who has lost a coin and is going to look for it. There is a plan and a lot hard work to sweep the floor and make a careful search for the coin. She lit the lamp and is careful with each stroke of the broom on the dirt floor as she looks for the coin.
And when the lost are found and are safe from harm and destruction, the community is called together to celebrate the found and the great things that God is doing in the lives of the community. It is not enough in our modern day to seek out people to be members of our congregations just so that we can be proud of the pew numbers and hopefully pilfer the pockets, purses and accounts of the willing to support material ends. The mission of the community of God is to draw people to Christ by how we live our lives so that others who are lost can be found, find purpose for the life that is being given and join us in drawing of the city to Christ. After all, Jesus himself came to seek and to save that which is lost. So let’s get found and found together. Let's live like we are survivors and not be buried with the rest!