Looking and Sweeping, Sweeping and Looking

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 15.1-10

Right at this moment there are 24 to 32 satellites circling the globe in medium earth orbit, that are linked together in a global navigational satellite system: GPS. Each of these satellites circle the earth and transmit continually messages that include the time and its precise location over the globe and the rough position of all the satellites in the system. And if you have the proper receiver, and if you are picked up by at least three satellites, it can tell you, within a meter, exactly where you are on the globe. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, it doesn’t matter what time it is, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a city or out in a desert, it doesn’t matter whether you’re hungry or laughing or sad, you can know exactly where you are. I think that’s pretty amazing.

Our technological prowess grows by leaps and bounds, but there are limitations. For example, this sophisticated GPS system cannot help me find my keys! When I am late and I need to rush out and people are waiting for me and I have to look for my keys I wish that there was some kind of technology that would tell me exactly where I left them. I wish there was some kind of technology that would tell me exactly where I am when I am feeling lost inside. Because more significantly than where I have lost my keys, and even more significantly than where I am on the globe, there are many times when I, and perhaps you too, feel lost on the inside.

We know, and if you turn on your GPS in your phone (which of course you’ve turned off for church, right?), but if you did turn it on it would tell you that you are right on the corner of 200 West and Center Street in Logan, Utah in the United States, North American continent. Latitude whatever it is.

But it will not tell you where you are inside. Maybe you are lost because you face a particularly difficult position or circumstance at work. Maybe you have a particularly huge task coming up and you need to cram a semester’s worth of knowledge in your head in two hours. You know for those unreasonable professors. Maybe, just maybe you’re struggling with a particularly challenging relationship in your life, where you can’t seem to find forgiveness or peace. Perhaps you’re not being heard, or perhaps you’re not able to hear the other. Maybe it’s because you’ve lost a job or don’t know how you’re going to pay for that MRI test. Perhaps you are looking for healing that doesn’t come or an elusive answer to a question that just sticks in your mind and will not go away. Maybe it’s because of a behavior that has turned into an addiction, or a pride that you can’t give up. Or a weakness that you can’t avoid.

Whatever it may be, there are too many things that pull us away from the path of joy and peace and wholeness, fulfillment and faithfulness. There are just too many things. And all of the sudden we look up in spirit and we know exactly where we are physically, but we look up and we say, “God. I’m lost. I’m wandering. Where, where am I?” There doesn’t seem to be any technological solution to our dilemma.

But we have come to this place this morning and Jesus has good news, words of good news for us today. In the first parable that we heard, the one about the lost sheep, the shepherd makes the irrational decision to leave 99 sheep in the wilderness at risk, to find the one that was lost. Now this shepherd doesn’t necessarily have a head for business. This shepherd does not bother taking out his calculator and figuring out that saving the 99 is worth more than losing the one. But logic is not what drives the shepherd. In the mind and heart of this shepherd is the inescapable desire to find the one who is lost. Only the desire exists in his heart to make his heard whole again. Foolish, though it may seem.

In the second parable involving the lost coin, the woman keeps looking and sweeping, sweeping and looking until she finds the coin. She does not stop to save oil in the lamp, she doesn’t wait until more light, she doesn’t take breaks to have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, she doesn’t figure the lost coin will just turn up at some point. She keeps at it and at it and at it… sweeping and looking until that coin is found.

Thank God. Jesus says God is like that. And thank God because I am too often that one coin.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

    May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

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