Letting God Find You
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Luke 15:1-10
I don’t know about you, but I tend to identify with the hero of most stories I come across. The protagonist doing what they can to propel the story towards a good and worthy outcome. The person with the skills or power or luck to change the world, or at least their little part of it. The person who is guided by their sense of goodness or rightness to seek those who are lost or in need, to find them and to help them.
This tendency has occasionally let me down. Daenerys Targaryen, for example. You Game of Thrones fans out there know what I’m talking about. From our own faith stories, we could talk about Noah who, yes, saves life on earth from a flood but who gets pretty sketchy after that. Or Peter, the leader among the disciples who ends up betraying Jesus three times. Heroes rise, and heroes sometimes fall. I’m sure we can all relate to that, too.
But who among us imagines themselves to be the homeless widowed mother living on the streets of Flea Bottom—another Game of Thrones reference. Who among us puts themselves in the place of the camel who was not invited onto the ark, who is watching the ship’s door close as the first raindrops fall? Who among us relates to the criminal that hangs on the cross next to Jesus, the one who Jesus says nothing to?
Who among us imagines ourselves to be the lost sheep in today’s gospel?
I most certainly would rather be the rescuer of lost sheep. And that most certainly is not a terrible impulse. There is a beautiful and profound call in this gospel to be the one who seeks out the one person who has gone astray, the one person in pain, the one person who the flock has casted out. That’s what Jesus did. He sought out those who were poor, oppressed, hurting.
This assumes a certain power, though. A certain privilege. To be the seeker of lost sheep means to have a certain confidence in your own goodness, in your own cause, in your own belief. Those who you are seeking are the lost ones while you’re the one who knows what’s good and right.
We all sometimes need that confidence. We all sometimes have that confidence, thank God. It moves us to profound and beautiful deeds, to living the kind of life, the kind of love, that God calls us to. To finding the lost sheep and caring for them, and bringing them back into the fold.
But what if you are the one who is poor? What if you are the one who is oppressed? What if you are the one who is hurting? What if you are the one who needs to be found and brought back? What if you are the lost sheep?
I wonder if that idea makes you uncomfortable. It wouldn’t surprise me if it did. In our “pick yourselves up by your bootstraps” culture, we’re taught that any suffering we experience is a personal failure. Being poor means you didn’t work hard enough. Being oppressed means you’re blaming others for your struggles. Being sick means you didn’t take care of yourself well enough. Hurting emotionally means you’re not strong enough to handle your situation.
Which is of course exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. “Whatever you do to the least of these you did to me.” Jesus is poor. Jesus is oppressed. Jesus is sick. Jesus is hurting. Emmanuel. God with us. Whatever suffering happens to us happens to Jesus. Through Jesus, we are all brought together, made one in our joy and in our suffering.
Paul took this a step further. “But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
The lost sheep matters. When the lost sheep suffers, Jesus suffers. We, the Body of Christ, suffer.
When you don’t have enough, you are worthy of receiving resources.
When you are oppressed, you are worthy of your dignity and thriving.
When you are sick, you are worthy of healing.
When you are suffering, you are worthy of care.
When you are lost, you are worthy of being searched for and found.
Not because you worked hard enough to earn it. Not because you did the right things and avoided the wrong things. But because you are human, God’s creation, God’s beloved. In you God is well pleased. Because our God is a God of grace and love, not fault-finding and retribution.
A God of fault-finding does not leave the flock to search for the wayward sheep. A God of fault-finding shrugs and says, “well, they did it to themselves.”
A God of retribution does not rejoice when the lost sheep is found. A God of retribution finds an appropriate punishment for the crime of wandering off in the first place.
That might be the God our work-addicted, individualist culture might worship, but that’s not the God we find in the gospel.
Sometimes you might be the lost sheep. Right now, you might be the lost sheep. Sick. Hurting. Struggling. Suffering.
If you are that lost sheep right now, then your faithfulness is not in powering through. It is not in faking that you’re okay. It is not in trying to do it all on your own, in insisting that you don’t need help.
Your faithfulness is in your willingness to be found. Your willingness to admit that you’re lost, that you’re vulnerable. Your willingness to call out for help.
Are you open to being seen in your struggle? Are you open to being found?
Your faithfulness is in trusting that God is looking for you, that God wants so desperately to find you. That God is worried about you, fretting for your safety and your thriving. That God will not be able to rest until you’ve been found.
And God might show up in a lot of different ways. A surprise call from an old friend. A longer than usual hug from your spouse. A question from a concerned and caring supervisor. A sincere “how are you?” from someone here at church today.
How will you respond? Are you open to being seen, to being found?
I really hope you are. Because when you are, the gospel says, all are called to, `Rejoice, for the sheep that was lost has been found.' And all SHOULD rejoice when someone’s pain is lifted, when someone’s sickness is healed, when someone sees that they are worthy of dignity and care no matter what.
Because, as Paul said, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
You are not alone in your suffering. The Body of Christ is here to hold it with you. When you are lost, God longs to find you. And when you are found, we all rejoice together.