Worship Service for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Hello and welcome to worship this day, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, September 11, 2022! It’s good to have you here!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. In it will be the order of worship, the words of the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers corresponding with the ELW hymn book, and the full sermon. Alternatively, all the words you need to know will be on your screen and the sermon is included on this page below the video.

If you are comfortable and so wish, you can enhance your worship experience at home by lighting a candle for the whole service and can be put out with the altar candles at the end of the service. And you can join in on communion as well if you want something small to eat and drink nearby.

It is our prayer that God’s redeeming grace be upon you this day and always!

Holy God, by the gift of your Spirit show us the truth of your Word and give us wisdom for our hearts.  Let us hear your voice with joy and gladness that we be moved to serve you with faith and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ever feel lost? Not lost in a “just ask for directions” kind of lost, but actually completely unaware of where you are, where you’re going, and if you’d ever be found again?  With a complete sense of hopelessness and despair, that this is just it for you, end of the road, nowhere to turn, totally, utterly, lost. 

I felt this before, probably more than once but the time that comes to mind is when I was around 7 or 8 years old and at the mall with my family.  I think we were walking around at the old Sears at Metrotown and my mom was just looking at clothes while my siblings and I were wandering around close by.  Back in those days all the clothing racks were those round carousel things that were perfect for hiding in.  So what’s a kid to do at a time like this?  Hide in one, of course.  I thought it was going to be hilarious.  I snuck in between the clothes and even covered up my tracks by bringing clothes back to where they were and I stood on the legs of the carousel so my feet would be hidden. 

Don’t tell me you haven’t done the same at some point in your lives, I don’t care how old you are now.

Well, after a few minutes I couldn’t hear the voices of my family anymore so I thought it was time to let them in on the surprise and jump out and laugh at them for being so fooled.  Well, I jumped out, but my family was nowhere to be seen.  In fact, no one was anywhere.  It was like everyone disappeared from the store.  Kind of eerie, actually.

I wandered around looking for my family or anyone for that matter, searching up and down the weirdly shaped aisles and peering around the many many clothing carousels.  After about 30 minutes of looking, panic started to set in.  I really started to believe that I was lost forever.    And as a 7 or 8 year old, of course I started to cry.  I was scared, what if I never see my family again?  I was angry, how could they forget me like this, just because I’m the youngest? I was alone, and to be honest it was the worst feeling that my 7 or 8 year old self had ever felt up to that point.

I tried hiding again, in case it was like one of those Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe things where I was actually put in a different dimension.  I tried whisper yelling out for my mom, as I didn’t want to alert to anyone else that I was lost.  Hey I was a kid, but I was still a male with a keen sense of direction, no need to draw attention to my lostness.   I walked past one of those mirror pillars and saw my blubbering face and I glared at myself thinking, “be strong, you got this, stop crying.”

And soon after that, like within seconds, I heard my siblings playing and laughing and my mom still looking at stuff.  I slowly walked to them thinking that they’d embrace me and be like “where were you, we’ve been looking for you for hours and hours!”  But when I got there, they continued playing and shopping like I wasn’t there still.  So I tugged on my mom’s shirt and said hi.  She said hi back and kept browsing and I asked her if she knew where I was.  She didn’t know what I meant.  I said I was lost for about 40 minutes.  And she said that I was only out of her sight for less than 5.

So I was in Narnia.  Crazy stuff.

So maybe you know that feeling of being lost.  Maybe you’ve felt this lonely or unwanted as this 7 or 8 year old me felt.  Or maybe you also completely misunderstood the situation that you were in and interpreted reality to be something totally not what it was as my feeble brain decided to do all those years ago.

Interestingly enough, all of these themes are present in today’s gospel reading.  These parables that Jesus gives to the grumbling Pharisees are very familiar, and even more so when I remind you that they belong to a set of 3 parables, not just the 2 that we get today.  The third one being the story of the Prodigal Son, which I’m sure rings a bell.

Now you might be thinking, “hold on, we get the themes of feeling lost and unwanted, but misunderstanding reality?  What’s that all about?”  Well, I’m glad you asked, because this is actually something new that I came across this week in reading these texts again for the millionth time.  We know the stories, we know the interpretations, we probably know where I’m going with this sermon.  Or so we think.

It’s clear that these parables talk about being lost, which we imagine the Pharisees equate with the so-called “sinners” that Jesus was hanging out with.  And perhaps the so called sinners thought the Pharisees were lost.  We in our 21st century hindsights might think they were all lost.  But most likely whoever we think it is that is lost, it isn’t us.  Maybe in some sort of superficial humility we might say that maaaaybe we’re the lost, but just not as lost as those others that we really consider to be lost. 

Is it really hard to believe that we’re all lost?

I mean let’s face it, it isn’t hard to feel lost especially in this day and age.  We’re just coming out of 2+ year long pandemic, but still on shaky ground as we don’t know what the upcoming winter months will bring.  We just lost our queen this past week, who sure didn’t hold any real political power per se but she sure had a lot of influence over a lot of people and really she was just pretty cool.  And of course today is the anniversary of 9/11, a day that has been solidified in so many of our memories as one of the most tragic in the history of the West, not just because of the lives lost on the day but how the mentality of this part of the world has changed politically, emotionally, and how we regard people of different ethnicities and religions.

So it’s not hard to feel lost.  It’s not hard actually be lost.  It’s not hard to lose hope and think that we’ve been abandoned forever.  It’s just hard to admit it.

And so we come back to these parables and how I saw them a bit different this time around with my fresh post-sabbatical eyes.  See I think the reason why we don’t want to be equated with the lost is because we often think that they are those who never knew God, perhaps those outside the church, and maybe even the ones who think they’re better on their own and don’t need God in their lives which is why they don’t even bother looking.  That’s not us, we come to church every week (or close to it).  We walk the Christian walk and talk the Christian talk.  We even listen to most of our pastor’s sermons.  We can’t be lost, we’ve been in God’s lap the whole time. 

But the thing is, for you to lose something, don’t you have to have it to begin with?  I mean it if wasn’t, then it isn’t lost per se, it’s just not yours.  And if you find this thing that wasn’t yours, you’re not finding what was lost, you’re stealing something that never belonged to you in the first place.

So for us to be found, we admit that we belong to God.  For us to be saved, we acknowledge that we need saving.  For us to be welcomed into God’s kingdom, we are simply recognizing the fact that we are God’s children, redeemed and cherished, loved and longed for, lifted up and graciously brought back into community with all.

It’s not up to the other 99 sheep or the other 9 coins who joins their ranks.  It’s not up to the Pharisees who is welcomed and who isn’t into God’s kingdom.  It’s not up to us who is lost and who is found.  Rather, God declares us all as God’s own beloved children from before we were even born.  God welcomes us as God’s people in community with God and all the saints whether we like each other or not.  And even if we feel lost, like we don’t know where we are or what we’re doing, or that we’ve been abandoned by all that we hold dear, God is right there with us telling us that God’s eye has been on us the whole time.

 And so we move forward into this new school year, into this new time of the monarchy, this time of hopefully post pandemic but definitely post-sabbatical, may we see God finding us daily wherever we are, and may we be at peace in the sure and certain hope of God’s gracious salvation for us all… because we need it.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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