The Lord’s Lost and Found: The Sheep and the Coin, Luke 15.1-10

Sermon:        The Lord’s Lost and Found: A Sheep and A Coin
Scripture:     Luke 15.1-10
Preacher:      Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location:      First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date:             September 15, 2019

Did you know our church has a lost and found? It’s located at the end of the counter at the mailboxes near the kitchen by the Spanish Room. For the nicer items, there’s a clear case you can peer into and rummage through.  For the really expensive stuff like iPhones, watches, and wallets, it all goes to a secret place that you have to ask around for to find them! Or, you can always just ask Darleen, I suppose. I’ve seen everything from glasses – lots and lots of glasses – sweaters, and Bibles. I always check the Bibles to let people know we’ve got theirs but sadly most people don’t put their names in them. There are beautiful leather Bibles, Bibles that have been written in and marked up with life-changing thoughts, Bibles that were obviously gifts and there is no way to return them to their owners. So, if you bring a Bible, put your name in it!

Every church has a lost and found and do you know what?  God has a lost and found, too, and it is called the Church!  The Church is the place the Lord of Hosts has purposefully created to welcome and receive those of us who know well enough that the world is a big swirly place and our lives can feel out of control because we know we are not God. The Church is the place all of us lost ones can come to and know that we do not have to pretend to be God and we allow the Lord that privilege instead of taking it on ourselves.

The Lord’s lost and found is called the Church. In it are people like you and me and others who are trying to find their way.  Luke 15 has three stories about the lost and the found and frankly, they are some of the most scandalous biblical texts in all of scripture, but we’ve become too familiar with them. These three stories are about a sheep, a coin, and a wayward son. Actually, they are about a bold shepherd, a woman, and an extravagant father.

Today, we are going to look at the first two, the shepherd and the woman, and then next week we will look at the famous Story of the prodigal son, or as I call it, the Story of Extravagant Father.  Hear the Word of the Lord from Luke 15.1-10!

Luke 15:1-10

15.1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “These fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When 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.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [1]

Each of the two stories follows the same pattern. Something is lost; someone diligently searches for it and finds it; a celebration of friends and neighbors is thrown to rejoice at their good fortune at finding it again (interestingly, neither mentions their family); and finally, even the heavens rejoice at all that has transpired. Let’s look at three scandalous revelations in our brief ten verses.

The first scandalous revelation we note is in verses 1 and 2. We read how Jesus, an itinerant Rabbi, is choosing to have table fellowship with ‘those people.’ Jesus does not let the virtue of who he is get in the way of who he chooses to rub shoulders with and get to know. The collection of tax collectors and those other sinners, you know – those people – are ironically being welcomed and received by God’s spokesman. Jesus’ faith, religious actions, and spiritual walk were intentionally intersecting with the people who needed it the most – you know ‘those people’ – the ones we read and hear about in the news or who work in ‘those kinds of places.’ When you pause to think of them, who are ‘those people’ in your life?  Is it all those sinners like the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the unjust politicians, the thieves, the hustlers, shady salesman, and the abusive or cheating spouse? You bet; all of these folks were eagerly trying to hear what Jesus was saying.  People like you and me.

Ironically, the religious and pious people, the ones who were the ‘spiritual giants’ in the community, the ones who practiced the ways of good citizenship, these are the ones who were too busy grumbling about Jesus to even hear what he had to say. They were stuck in their religious and spiritual hubris and that pride prevented them to experience the good news. The first scandalous act in our text is that those who are supposed to ‘get it’ don’t and the ones no one ever would imagine ‘getting it’ do!  Furthermore, as soon as you and I start talking about “those people”, we become one of “those people” ourselves!

The second scandalous piece of our Story is found in verses 3 to 7. We often hear this story and think how dedicated and loving the shepherd is who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the single lost one. Isn’t that special? Well, on one level it is but its purpose is to really show us the radical nature of God’s love for the lost.

People in business know that there will always be a certain amount of waste in their business.  A grocer orders twenty bushels of lettuce knowing that she might only sell 18 of them.  The rest is calculated waste that grocers know they will have to throw out and absorb.  Or, it’s like a chef at your favorite local restaurant.  Based on historical trends on how Thursday night dinners go, he will order and prepare so many Thursday night Blue Plate Specials but knows that tonight’s chicken very well could end up in tomorrow’s soup at lunch. What do we think Wendy’s chili is made of anyway? They plan for a certain amount of waste and loss. So it is in our Story.

The scandal in verses 3 to 7 is that the Shepherd leaves the 99% of his working capital to go find a single sheep.  Another valid way to read and hear this text is like this:

Which one of you would actually leave the 99 sheep and go looking for a single lost lamb?!

In other words, who in their right mind would leave an entire flock of sheep, your entire livelihood out, open and exposed to bandits, thieves, lions, and wild dogs to be preyed upon while you’re out looking for a single young lamb?

Think about that a moment.  It would be like a driver of a Best-Buy semi-truck leaving the back and side doors wide open parked in the Bronx full of iPhones, iPads, Macs, TV’s, computers, games and other equipment as the driver walked three or four blocks away to find the one iPad that he forgot to mark off his inventory at the last stop. The scandalous Good News is that Jesus is telling us that God is willing to risk it all for the sake of the one. The one is so important to God that God appears to act irresponsibly in the pursuit of the lost one. This is not so much about finding the lost sheep as it is about the scandalous nature of God as the Good Shepherd risking it all to find the one.

Verses eight through ten reveal the third scandalous piece in our text and it is so subtle that we do not even notice it.  We overlay our twenty-first-century mindsets on top of the story of the woman looking for a lost coin that we fail to see what would be shocking for Jesus’ listeners in the first century.  If you wonder why the religious do-gooders were grumbling about Jesus, well, here you go!

Look at the previous parable of the Good Shepherd. Who are we to understand the shepherd to be in the Story?  It’s God!  God goes and finds the lost lamb. Now, look at this woman tearing up her house to find that lost coin.  Who is the woman in the story?  Who are we to understand the woman to be in the Story? Yup. God. Jesus has done gone to compare God to a woman who is earnestly looking for something she has lost. Jesus is forcing the people to expand their view and the notion of God to be larger, more embracing, more intentionally loving than they ever imagined!  Jesus is stirring it up.  God as a woman?  Women were treated horribly in antiquity; they had few rights and yet look at who Jesus compares God to be.

Today we baptized a beautiful baby girl who could do nothing but to be handed to a stranger with a beard and had her head covered in water. She had no choice to be adopted into this family of God. The Good Shepherd came searching for her. The Woman searching for the lost coin came searching for her. Both the lost sheep and the coin were unaware of being “lost”.  Baby Charlotte is not aware of it either, but the shepherd knew and knows. The woman knew and knows.  And so, it is that God claims this little baby for heaven’s Lost and Found called the Church. Isn’t it wonderful we worship a God who breaks our earthly rules and comes to find ‘those people’ like you and me? God is the pursuer. It’s that simple and uncomplicated.  And all of God’s people say, Amen.

Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission.   All rights reserved.

[1] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About patrick h wrisley

A Mainline Presbyterian Orthodox Evangelical Socially Minded Prophetic Contemplative Preacher sharing the Winsome Story of Christ as I try to muddle through as a father, friend, head of staff, colleague, and disciple.
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