16 June 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Luke 15:1-10 (Mic 7:18-20, 1 Pet 5:6-11)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
You don’t have to be a child of the eighties to be familiar with the song “We Are the Champions.” This anthem is played at nearly every sports championship around the world, be it the World Cup, the Super Bowl, or the World Series. It is a reminder that in this fallen world, only one can be the champion, and everyone else is a “loser.”
“No time for losers,” says the song, because “we are the champions of the world.” And in today’s parlance, it’s pretty bad to be a “loser.” If you are a loser, you sit alone at lunch. If you are a loser, nobody wants to speak to you. If you are a loser, you are not going to be seen socially with the winners and the champions.
The champions of first century Jewish society in the Roman Empire – the Pharisees and the scribes – were grumbling at Jesus, as usual, saying: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” In other words, Jesus has time for losers. Jesus “receives” them, will be seen with them, talks to them, and even eats with them. Jesus has broken the rule against allowing the losers to eat at the table with the champions, the winners, the cool kids.
For in their world, to be a “sinner” was to be a loser. You did not associate with them, did not speak with them, and you most certainly did not eat with them, people like “the tax collectors and sinners” who were, incidentally, the ones who were “drawing near to hear” Jesus.
“So he told them a parable.” Actually, he told them several, teaching them about the importance of the lost. For Jesus is actually more interested in the humble lost than he is in the self-aggrandizing champion.
Our Lord first speaks of a lost sheep. And in this case, the sheep is only one of a hundred. Should a shepherd leave the 99 sheep who have not wandered to seek out the lost? Well, that is just what a good shepherd does. He will “go after the one that is lost… until he finds it.” A lot of terrible fates can befall a lost sheep, but if the shepherd finds it, it is a cause for rejoicing. It is a reason to throw a party. It may not be the World Cup or the Super Bowl, but to the lost sheep, this is his life; and to the shepherd, this is his beloved sheep – even if to the world, this is a “loser,” a “sinner,” a creature that deserves to bear the consequences of his bad mistake.
Of course, that is not how God’s kingdom operates. The King of love my Shepherd is.” Our Good Shepherd is interested in saving the lost, not teaching them a lesson. He has come to save us, not to condemn us. And in fact, our Lord says: “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
And consider the lost coin. The woman in our Lord’s story does not give up on the coin just because it is lost. No indeed! She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and “seeks diligently until she finds it.” She has time for the lost coin and doesn’t simply allow it to slip between the cracks or write it off as a loss. “And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” And again, Jesus reminds us of the “joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Although Jesus is the Champion of the world, in the literal sense of the word, Jesus is the only one of our race to have never fallen into sin, the only Man who was not a “loser.” And yet, Jesus is willing to be treated as a lost sheep or a lost coin. “My God, My God,” He cried out from the cross, “Why have You forsaken Me?” Our Lord was not lost, but cast away. He was the goat sent into the wilderness to bear the sins of the people, the scapegoat. He was the coin used to redeem us back from sin, He who was himself sold to sinners for thirty pieces of silver. And though the hosts of heaven wept at what our Lord suffered, they rejoice eternally for what He has gained. For He has gained us, dear friends, us “poor, miserable sinners,” losers the lot of us. All of us “lost and condemned persons.” Lost, that is, until we have been found, redeemed, and rescued by our Champion who has time for us, and who draws us into eternity.
Dear friends, we have additional cause for joy, for rejoicing, on this holy Lord’s Day. A little lost lamb has been found and delivered safely to his home, Hayden Rumfield. By water and the Word, according to the promise of our Good Shepherd, the lamps have been lit, the house has been swept, and by God’s diligence, Hayden has been found in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Heaven rejoices, and there is joy before the angels and before men. And Hayden will sing with all of us: “God’s own child I gladly say it, I am baptized into Christ.”
He is yet another fulfillment of the Word of the Lord, who “will again have compassion on us: He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea.” For Hayden’s sins, including those inherited from his parents, and those of his own, have all been drowned with Pharoah’s hosts and with the evil of the world at the great flood. He is preserved in the Ark of the Church, found and rescued by the one Champion who has time for losers, who finds the lost, and who makes each one of us “more than conquerors” by the cross, by the forgiveness of sins, by His Word, and through His very body and blood. And the vault of heaven resounds!
And having been found, we can indeed “be sober-minded; be watchful,” although “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” because the Lord has rescued us. He has rescued Hayden and all of the lost. He has found us and lays us on His shoulders, the same shoulders that bore the cross for us, and He leads us in rejoicing!
There is no room for grumbling here, dear friends. There is no need to seek a championship that excludes losers and tries to marginalize the lost. For we are all lost. And yet we are all found: champions by virtue of the victory of the One Champion, of the world and for the world, who has redeemed the world, who has found it lost and fallen and is remaking it new and glorious, who declares us to be “more than conquerors.”
And so, let us rejoice, dear brothers and sisters! Let us rejoice in the Lord’s victory over the devil on our behalf. Let us rejoice for all the baptized, including little Hayden, and ourselves! Let us rejoice over every sinner who repents, over every wandering sheep who finds his way home, over every valued person created in God’s image who has slipped through the cracks of this fallen world to be found by our merciful Lord, everyone who is brought to repentance and everlasting life. For in being found by Him who has sought us and saved us, we are champions indeed. Amen.
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