Jocelyn Breeland, Sunnyvale, CA


Warm-up Question

Have you ever been truly lost? How did that feel?

One Who Was Lost Is Found

Pavlina Pizova is fortunate to be alive. Pizova and her partner, Ondrej Petr, both Czechs, were hiking the Fiordland National Park in New Zealand in July when they became lost and disoriented in fog and heavy snow. The couple spent a night outside before Petr fell down a slope and died.

shutterstock_392601556After two more days outside in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures, Pizova made her way to a warden’s hut. The hut was uninhabited, but stocked with food and firewood. Pizova stayed there for a month, unable to walk to safety because of physical weakness and fearful of leaving because she’d witnessed several avalanches.

Pizova and Petr had not told anyone of their travel plans. Someone at the Czech consulate happened to see frantic messages by their families on social media and raised the alarm.

Pizova has expressed her gratitude for the assistance of the Czech and New Zealand authorities in her rescue. She also noted several mistakes the couple had made, including not informing friends and family of their plans, not carrying an emergency locator beacon, and underestimating New Zealand’s winter weather.

As miraculous as it was, this type of rescue is far from rare. In the U.S. alone, the National Park Service reports thousands of search and rescue (SAR) operations every year. Hiking and boating are the activities requiring the most SAR assistance.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you go hiking, skiing, boating? Are you concerned about the risk?
  • Why do you think so many people in national parks need to be rescued?
  • What can be done to reduced the numbers of people in dangerous situations like this?

Seventeenth 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 B at Lectionary Readings

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


Gospel Reflection

The parable of the lost sheep is one of the most well known Bible stories and it offers a compelling vision of our relationship with Christ. Jesus loves each of us so much that, should one of us stray, he will search tirelessly until he finds us. And he will rejoice in bringing us back into the fold.

What a blessing! What more could we want when we’re lost than to know that the search party is out there looking? As Christians, we are assured that we cannot go so far astray that God will abandon us, and we know that we will not just be allowed back in the flock, but that our eternally forgiving and merciful God will welcome us back with rejoicing.

Like so much of scripture, today’s Gospel shares the good news of what God has done and continues to do for us. It also offers a model for how we should share God’s love with one another. Following Jesus’ example, we must seek out the lost and welcome others into our community with rejoicing.

Discussion Questions

  • List some of the ways we as Christians get lost.
  • The Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with sinners because, in their understanding, that kind of association could make a person unclean. What are some ideas that today keep us separate from others?
  • Are there some sins, some ways that people stray, that are so serious that we should hold them apart – for their good or for ours? What does the Gospel suggest?

Activity Suggestions

As Pavlina Pizova realized, people who go hiking in the wilderness or boating or other adventures could use a kit of tools and instructions to keep from getting lost, and to find their way back home if they stray. What tools and instructions could help Christians avoid getting lost or to return the lost to the fold? Do your answers include individual and community supports?

It may be helpful to break into small groups to consider these questions and then report your results to the larger group.

Then go around the room and share one thing you will do this week to keep (or restore) yourself or someone else as part of the flock.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for always caring for us, the sheep of your flock, and seeing all our needs. We each stray at times and rejoice to be returned to your loving embrace. Help us to share the same joyful embrace with all of your people. In the name of the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.