Heather Hansen, San Antonio, TX

Warm-up Question

Have you ever been lost?  What was the situation and how were you “found”?

Be Still, Be Found

A common human experience human is to lose something.  Losing something can be very frustrating and produce a lot of stress, especially when you’re in a hurry or it’s a really important item.  There are many reasons for why this happens; more often than not, we find the things we’ve lost when least expect it.

But did you also know that it is common for people to “freak out”  when they are the thing that is lost?  In an article written by Michael Bond in May 2020, Bond details the sad story of a surveyor finding the remains of a female hiker who was reported missing two years earlier.  She left the Appalachian trail to find a private spot just a few yards from the path.  When she was ready to return, she became completely disoriented.  This is a very common occurrence in the forest, where there are frequently no distinguishing landmarks or focal points to use for direction.

Bond writes:

“Lost is a cognitive state.  Your internal map has become detached from the external world, and nothing in your spatial memory matches what you see.   But at its core, it is an emotional state…90 percent of people make things a lot worse for themselves when they realize they are lost – by running, for instance.  Because they are afraid, they can’t solve problems or figure out what to do.”

Bond also writes that finding a lost person is just as much a psychological puzzle as it is a geographical hunt. Research and interviews with found persons reveal that running when lost is not only common, but a strong compulsion.  The urge to run is one reason we teach young children to “stay in one place” when they find they are lost.  Usually, you aren’t far from where you need to be and it’s much easier to find you if you stay in one spot.

Discussion Questions

  • Would you rather lose something important or be lost?  Why?
  • What are the different ways we can become lost?  How would you feel in the different scenarios?  What would do in these situations?

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 32:7-14

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 15:1-10

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This week’s readings share a thread.  All refer to people who are lost and are brought back into the fold by God’s forgiveness.  In the Exodus reading, God tells Moses he is going to destroy the people because they have quickly forgotten how God freed them from slavery.  In the midst of desert wandering and challenge, the people’s faith in God’s guidance wavers and they become lost.  (How does this relate to the phenomenon of running when you are lost?). Moses intercedes for the people and God forgives and restores them.  

Similarly, Paul refers to his former sinful, persecuting self and relates that, with God’s grace and mercy through faith in Christ Jesus, he has been forgiven and is no longer lost.

Finally, in response to the grumblings of the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus tells two parables about lost things.  They are unhappy because Jesus has been eating with sinners and tax collectors.  Jesus teaches them that God’s love leaves no person, even one considered the most lost, behind.  The lost are valuable enough to search for, even if they are just one of a hundred.  In the second story, Jesus says that the smallest thing is still significant to God and worth tearing everything apart to find.  Once the lost are found, there is great rejoicing.

I often wonder where most people see themselves in the parables.  Is it easier to think of ourselves as one of the ninety-nine?  Or is it the woman searching for the coin?  Can we even imagine being so lost that someone has to search for us?

The good news of the gospel is that God values us so much that they will search for us until we are found.  Then God celebrates that we are recovered  and brings us back into the fold.  We have a God that searches for us.  Just think on that for a moment.  While we often think of ourselves as people seeking God, what does it mean to be sought out by God?  Why do we often feel like we need to seek God, rather than allow God to come to us?  

Perhaps in the times when we feel lost, we would be better to sit still, take a moment to breathe, and allow God to find us.  

Discussion Questions

  • Like the instinct we have to run when we are lost in the woods, why do you think we are inclined to seek God rather than be still and allow God to find us?
  • How does it make you feel to know that you are so valuable, the shepherd would leave the rest of the flock to find you and bring you back?
  • Why do you think God rejoices over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine that need no repentance?
  • How does God measure value?  In God’s eyes, what makes a person valuable enough to seek out?

Activity Suggestion

Play the game Blindfold Maze Embers.

  • How does this game relate to being lost and our tendencies to act when we are lost?
  • How is asking for help more like sitting still and allowing God to “find” us rather than us seeking for the way out?
  • Why is it hard to let others, including God, help us when we feel lost?

Closing Prayer

Holy God, It’s frightening to feel lost.  We panic and we fight for control over our situations.  Help us to know that when we are lost you are right there looking for us…we only need to stop and breathe, and you will bring us back.  Give us the courage to trust that you seek us out and forgive us when we go astray, and help us to rejoice when others are found and forgiven too.  Amen.