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When the car keys just don't want to be found

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sermon for the twenty-second Sunday after Trinity

You were holding them in your hand just a moment ago. And then you put them down. And now they’ve gone. And you can’t think for the life of you where they’ve got to.

Sound familiar?

[PAUSE]

Losing things is part and parcel of cluttered lives. Lose fifty pence and it’s a source of irritation. Lose your car keys and that irritation turns into some vigorous searching. Lose your car keys five minutes before your important meeting and that’s when the panic really sets in.

And then your car keys walk up to you and say, “here I am! I’ve come back!” and you’re ecstatic.

Except that this doesn’t happen, does it?

[PAUSE]

This seems to be the problem with the Lord’s parables. It’s all very well comparing the joy of the shepherd finding the lost sheep with the joy in Heaven over the repentant sinner. It’s all very well, comparing the relief of the woman who lost a piece of silver with the relief that the angels have when we turn back to God. Perhaps this is all the parables say to us – just a simple message of how happy God is when we turn back to Him. So why does the Lord choose these parables to show how happy He is when we repent? Why not go with the father rejoicing at the return of the Prodigal Son? Or with a story of someone saying, “I’m sorry” and being reconciled with another?

After all, the sheep didn’t choose to be found, neither did the coin. Does that mean that we are all going to be found like a sheep, or a coin, or the car keys? If so, where does repentance come in? Why bother repenting of our sins?

[PAUSE]

In each of these situations, there is always the possibility that things have gone for good. When you hunt for your car keys, there are always these horrible thoughts like, “oh no, someone’s stolen them!” or “oh no, I’ve locked them in the car!” or “oh no, I left them on the wall outside.”

Until you’ve found it, your sheep could be in the jaws of a wolf. Until you’ve found it, the coin could be in the pocket of a thief. There is always the possibility of loss.

This is where human beings differ from coins, sheep and car keys. We can make choices. We can choose to be found. We can choose to hide. We can choose to wander off and we can choose to come back. We have this capacity to choose otherwise we wouldn’t be urged to repent at every turn.

And this repentance means that we have to choose to hate our possessions, our families, our friends, our very selves.

Hate’s a strong word, isn’t it?

[PAUSE]

We know that God is Love and we are to love God. We know full well that to love something in God’s place is idolatry. This means we have to love everything else less than God. We also know that hatred is the absence of love. If we are to love God most of all, then we must have less love for other things which means we must hate them more.

The hatred of which the Lord speaks is not an absolute loathing, it means loving less. We are to love our possessions, our families and our selves less than God. We are to put God first before all that we hold dear. If God is comparing Himself with a shepherd who loses a sheep, or a woman who loses a silver coin, and then goes overboard in celebrating their return, then He is demonstrating very clearly the concern He has for finding us. We remain lost while we choose not to repent and the moment we do, He finds us, scoops us up and cries out with joy, “it is finished!”

[PAUSE]

Repentance costs a lot – even our very lives – and the Lord bids us look at the cost carefully. After all, what is the cost of Him finding us? Hint: the answer’s on the altar.

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