Tim Jacobsen, West Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question

What is the longest time you have spent looking for something? Where did it end up being? How did you feel? (Be honest, it’s ok to say it was right in front of your face)    

Pain in Losing, Joy in Finding

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the devastation from Hurricane Dorian, here is a helpful link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/us/hurricane-dorian-updates.html.

Pro Tip: Be sensitive to those students who may be scared or storms or who have gone through severe weather events and know that it may bring up emotions for them. Talk about the storm, but don’t force response or shame those who this could bring up emotions for. 

Hurricane Dorian has left devastation and damage along its path. Think of the many who were in the path of Dorian. Many had to make the choice between staying, weathering the storm and trying to keep their belongings safe, and evacuating with what they can take and hoping for the best. Hurricane season comes at a time when people are taking the last of their summer vacations.  Tourists have to decide what they are going to do or, if they have not left home, whether they should even go on the trip.  

Big weather events bring up a range of emotions for people. Some are eager to see the weather, but not the devastation that can happen. Others are scared for loved ones or worried about what the damage means for them moving forward. In times of worry or crisis we tend to take inventory of what we have, and what those things mean to us. The things that hold a lot of meaning are things that we try to keep safe or take with us because we couldn’t bear to lose them. 

Discussion Questions

  • What do you hold close or valuable to you?
  • How do you keep those things safe?
  • How would you feel if you lost it?

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

I remember when I was little and was out running errands with my mom. We were in a store that had tall displays, so it was hard for those of us who were short to see over them. This led me to lose my mom in the store. I was scared and wondered how I would get home. Mind you, all this happened before cell phones, so I couldn’t call her and ask where she was. My mom was in the zone, looking for whatever she was looking for, so she did not realize right away that we were separated. I decided I would go to the front of the store; they paged her over the speakers to come up and meet me at the front. I was so glad to find her and did my best to stay close the rest of that shopping trip. 

In the Gospel reading for today there were some pharisees and scribes, basically some really churchy people, debating and judging Jesus’s actions. Jesus then turned the conversation around (as he often does) and posed this question to them, “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?”

I would ask some questions about the sheep’s age or health, really trying to answer the question of the sheep’s value. But that does not figure into the story.  In Judea, the hilly terrain could make it hard to find a sheep and there were spots where sheep could get and humans couldn’t easily follow. The shepherd must have put out a lot of effort for one lost animal.  Jesus adds that once the sheep is found the shepherd throws a party because the lost sheep was found. 

Then Jesus tells the parable of a lady losing a coin and looking all over for it. This wasn’t just any coin like the ones we lose in a couch and forget about; this coin was a half or full day’s pay. We don’t know her financial status but a half day’s pay is not something to just lose and ignore. She, like the shepherd, looks all over and throws a party rejoicing that it was found.  

Could you imagine throwing a party for a lost sheep or a missing coin? I’m down for a good party, but these seem like lame reasons to throw a party. To top it off the sheep or coin couldn’t even say thank you or show repentance for being lost. If we just take this view, we miss the point. 

These parables illustrate that God cares about those who are on the margins or missing. God knows what is best for us and wants us to be in community with God, not because God needs us, but because God cares about us. This could have been shocking news to the religious elite of the day because they were thinking they had an in with God and that they mattered most to God. Jesus embodied God’s goal for community through his life and ministry. Jesus ate and spent time with those who were on the margins and challenged the religious elite to expand their vision.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever felt like you were missing?
  • What makes you feel welcomed?
  • How did these parables make you feel?
  • How can you welcome people into your youth group or church?
  • Who are some people you can reach out to our invite?

Activity Suggestions

All are welcome: Those are common words on church signs, but do you really mean it? The kingdom of God is for the people of God, which is everyone. It can be so easy to count people as lost or ignore them. Take a look at your youth group and think how a visitor would feel. Talk through what it could look like to invite people or what could change in your group to make all feel welcome. 

The point of this exercise isn’t just to grow numbers.  We are called to make Christ know to all, so let’s do that.  

Thank you: Write a note thanking someone who helped you when you felt lost or not included. Thank them for making you feel welcome or for reaching out to you.  

Closing Prayer

Good and Gracious God, we thank you for your presence with us and love that you have for us. We ask that you open our eyes to those around us who need to feel your love. Work through us as we go out to be your hands and feet. We have been blessed with much and long for much, help us to be content and willing to share our blessings with others.  Amen