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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  • Breakfast Encounter

    Last Friday morning, I stopped by my GP’s office to let them draw some blood for a test and to get my flu vaccine for the year. Because of the blood test, I had to ‘fast,’ arriving for the blood draw without having any food that morning. When the phlebotomist had drawn the blood and given me the shot, I went to a nearby diner to get some breakfast. Little did I know I was about to witness something extraordinary.

    While I was eating my pancake, egg, and piece of sausage and reading a book about Oscar Romero, a young man went up to the counter to pay. I didn’t notice any of this, of course (occupied as I was with not only Oscar Romero’s life and ministry to the poor of El Salvador, but also all that butter and syrup…) until the young man started yelling at the woman behind the counter.

    “Swipe it again!” is what drew my attention.

    She did, and the card must have been denied a second time. She ran it again, and the look on her face told me the same thing happened. Denied.

    The young man was getting more agitated and saying things to her under his breath. I was paying more attention now, and she asked if he had another card she could try.

    “No! I don’t have another bleeping card!” he yelled at her. Except he didn’t say bleeping.

    Now I’m not a stranger to harsh words. I’ve said them myself. Usually when I’m trying to get a rusted bolt off an old machine and it finally comes loose, taking some of my knuckle skin with it. And I think I quietly swore under my breath in January of 1988 when the Washington football team beat my beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 42-10. There have been other times too. But never, ever at a person.

    Upon being sworn at, the young woman stared at the man like she didn’t know what to do (how could she?). Tears were about to appear. And the air in the room went real still. Like in the movies. I’m sure the background music was still playing, but it seemed deathly quiet at that moment.

    I was about to get up and walk over to the counter—not exactly sure what I was going to do once I got there—when another man who had been eating nearby wandered up real slow, eyes staring at the young man. He was a tall guy, with white hair under his old IFA ball cap, probably in his sixties. He asked the young woman, “What seems to be the problem here?”

    And that’s when the young man made what I thought was a fatal mistake: he answered when he hadn’t been spoken to. “It’s nothin’. My card won’t work,” he spat back.

    I thought a fight was about to break out, but the older man, his eyes searing into the young disgruntled one’s face, reached for his wallet and said to the cashier, “Aubrey, I’d like to pay for this young man’s meal, if that’s okay with him.” And after getting out some cash, he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder, not one of those friendly pats on the shoulder, but one of those firm grips that, well, made me think he was making sure the lesson was going to stick.

    I’ve had those kinds of hands on my shoulders a few times over the years. Perhaps from a coach, maybe from my dad once or twice; they happen when a boy or young man really needs to start paying attention.

    And after staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, the old guy said, “Be kind.” And then walked away.

    The young man left the restaurant and climbed into an oversize truck that was parked right out front, cranked up the volume on his radio, and left some rubber on the road as he departed.

    I went into the church office sometime later to finish my sermon, but I kept thinking about angry people and hurt people and kind people and people who teach lessons to those who could use them. I also thought about people who have a head full of kind words who refuse to tolerate ugliness.

    I hope I can be someone like that.

    I have a feeling Aubrey earned a whole lot of tips that morning. She deserved them.

    Be kind.

    That’s all for now.

    —Pastor Derek

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