I read an interesting article a while ago about parents who forget their child in the back seat of their car and go off shopping or come home and forget their child is still in the car.
As we know that can have tragic consequences particularly in summer.
I was staggered when it was suggested in the article that you should put something valuable in the back seat, like your mobile phone, so you when you remember that you haven’t got your mobile phone that you then see that your child is in the back seat.
I don’t know about you but I found that to be an extraordinary situation that one can forget a child in the back seat but a mobile phone would be missed almost immediately.
No one in their right mind would ever suggest that a mobile phone is more valuable than a human life but it’s funny how sometimes we can become complacent to the ones we love most.
And sometimes we can treat people as objects and objects as the most important part of our life.
You hear so often of children playing in the park while parents have their eyes buried in their phones.
Or families that disintegrate as careers take parents away from their families.
It is very easy for the things that are most valuable in our life to be overlooked or taken for granted even though they are still valuable.
So the article wasn’t suggesting that a mobile phone was more valuable than a child but that sometimes the things in our life that are of value are taken for granted.
And we only realise their value to us once they are gone.
You know how it goes – you get home and throw you keys the first place you find and then in the morning you’re searching everywhere for them.
And once they’re found you are so thankful and you vow in future you going to put them in a specific place – one specific place – so you never lose them again.
How long does that last?
The bible readings today point out how valuable the lost are to God and that he will do anything to find the lost and rejoice even more about finding someone that is lost over someone that has always been there.
The lost are so important to God that he will search for one lost sheep while he still has 99 sheep that have never strayed.
Significantly what our bible reading shows is that no one is ever too lost for God despite what we might think.
We should never give up on God searching and finding people who have strayed from God – including ourselves.
And there are 2 examples that show the heart and nature of God.
In our Gospel reading we see Jesus associating with the ones least expected.
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So often we picture Jesus or God as judgmental and distancing himself from people who are far from perfect.
Maybe you’ve experienced that sort of understanding before.
But here we see Jesus, not distancing himself from the sinful but drawing near to them.
Not only does he welcome the sinful but he eats with them.
And then in our 2nd reading, Paul stands as far away from God that anyone could possibly have done so – a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence towards Christians.
We see in Paul a person who hated Jesus, hated Christians, and set out to destroy church and arrest Christians.
What we see in these accounts is that God is more concerned about finding those who are lost than making sure that all the rules are kept.
Sadly we often get what is important around the wrong way – like the parent and their child and mobile phone.
There are lessons for all of us – God’s unstoppable love and compassion for all people.
And we see that God goes to any length to find those who have left him or have not yet come to know him.
And note the great risk the shepherd takes in leaving the 99 sheep while he goes looking for the one who is lost.
And even though it was that one sheep who was disobedient while the other 99 obeyed all the rules, he still throws a party for everyone, which will probably cost him more than the value of the one sheep he has spent all his energy to find!
I heard an interesting statistic recently that if billionaire Bill Gates were to drop a $100 bill on the ground it would not be worth his time stopping to pick it up.
And yet this shepherd stops, puts 99 sheep at risk – takes time out of his busy day – throws and expensive party – and all because of one lost sheep.
In human terms that sheep wasn’t worth going after – but not for God.
We were not worth God sacrificing his son for us and yet God loved the world so much that he sent his son to die for us – while we were yet sinners.
In a similar way, the woman who lost one coin sets aside her daily household chores.
She disrupts the world of her home just to find the one coin that may not in itself cover the cost for the party she throws to rejoice!
What these do is to challenge the value system of human beings.
That we don’t value people on what they contribute or don’t contribute.
That we don’t value people on the types of lives that they live.
But that we value all people as loved by God.
Sadly we live in a world where devaluing others has become commonplace.
We are challenged to remember that we are all lost.
But God is compassionate, pursuing us even when we are at our worst.
And so as we look around us and see people who are drifting away from God we are to see them as people to whom Christ is going towards – like the lost sheep.
People whom Jesus is looking for – like the lost coin.
People for whom Jesus came, like the sinners with whom Jesus met and ate.
When we see people who reject God – who despise God and everything he stands for – people who despise the Church and Christians – then we are to see them like Paul whom God snatched from disbelief and placed him as his most important Apostle.
Even Paul couldn’t understand that – calling himself the worst of sinners and one abnormally born when it came to be called a child of God.
It is easy to label people as atheists, God-haters – heretics – apostates – and so many other terms – but God only has one term for all people – people for whom Jesus died.
And that includes not only the tax collectors and sinners but also scribes and Pharisees who didn’t realise they were lost as well.
The tax collectors and sinners were lost physically because they didn’t know about God and his love for them.
But the Scribes and Pharisees were lost spiritually because although they knew about God’s love for themselves, they were unaware of God’s love for the tax collectors and sinners.
So we are challenged to not only to seek the lost whom God is looking for but also to look at ourselves and constantly find ourselves as we too have drifted away too easily from God’s compassion for ourselves and others.
But we are so fortunate that we cannot ever drift away so far from God that he cannot find us.
And that goes for all people.
We should never think of anyone too lost but as people for whom the Good Shepherd is always seeking.
For none were more removed than Paul and yet he too discovered Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners– of whom he considered himself the worst.
But he received mercy and the utmost patience, and we too are asked to show the same mercy and patience with all people so that all would come to believe in him for eternal life.
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.