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Message for Sunday 15 September 2019: “Finding Disciples”

Today’s message is inspired by Luke 15:1-10, where Jesus was speaking with despised tax collectors and “sinners” considered unworthy of Rabbi Jesus’ words. The controversy aroused a teachable moment with relevant lessons about helping people find redemption.

Critics were upset with Jesus, but he responded with a pair of analogies. The first example Jesus gave his audience was about how a shepherd with a hundred sheep will leave the ninety-nine and pursue the lost one. After much searching, the shepherd was rewarded because he found his stray animal and then celebrated with his friends and relatives. In the second story, Jesus spoke about a woman who lost a silver coin. The woman scoured her house to find the valuable item. Like the sheep owner, the woman who found her coin rejoiced with after discovering what was lost.

There’s at least three points in the two stories cited above: 1) a person will focus more on what they don’t have  than on what they already possesses; 2) God doesn’t want even a single person to be forgotten or abandoned; and 3) there’s much joy arising from finding what was missing. In both stories, Jesus reveals insights about human nature and searching for fulfillment. This means that Jesus’ narratives address much more than two people simply seeking lost possessions.

Is there something or someone missing from your life? Once you come to God you’ll find fulfillment unlike any other relationship. With God, you won’t be lost; without God, you’re lost already. No other situation will be as full and healthy as those blessed by the Divine presence. There are many people in the world who are spiritually lost even if they seem to have outward success. To be a whole person means that there is health in body, mind and spirit—the definition of holistic wellbeing. As God’s follower you can help every living creature find his/her way toward a fulfilling intimacy with the Almighty.

You can be zealous recovering what you’re missing, and in many cases your attention narrows to the absent thing rather than on the blessings that haven’t been lost. An insight here is that you needn’t lose recognition of what you have, which in many cases is far greater than what you do not have. It’s also worth working hard to find or discover what it is that you’re missing. The hard work of helping people pays-off: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

How can you translate Jesus’ story into your church life? The process of discovering lost valuables means that the church must accomplish outreach, which is partnering with God to help make new Christians. You can understand what it means to look for lost possessions and how you might feel, rejoicing after you discover what was once gone. Consider then how you can partner with God to ensure that lost persons are found and redeemed. All of this begs the crucial question of how to search for and recover those who are alienated from God. Your faith family in the church can teach and encourage you to find the most effective ways to reach people.

Along life’s highways and byways people get run-over, have accidents, experience detours and through various other perils lose spiritual vitality. We are obligated to be the Good Samaritans who help people regain health. In partnering with God to rescue people we will also find new meaning for ourselves. Nothing is greater than the treasure you’ll uncover as you assist in the process of redemption. No amount of sheep, coins, or anything else can substitute for helping restore lost souls.

There are many ways that you can assist your church, first and foremost in cultivating a desire to serve God as a faithful follower. You can overcome obstacles by thinking and behaving in a way which better utilizes your time, talents and treasures, to reach the estranged, discouraged and wounded. But before you go on a mission to save the world first consider your spiritual health. No amount of outreach or charity can substitute for first getting your own house in order. Of course, you needn’t be even near perfect before helping other people. However, it helps to be in a right relationship with God before you try to save others.

As a church, we are a faith family called to help people. We must also be sensitive to how our church policies, politics and personalities either help or hinder outreach. Everything from our physical facilities to our welcoming of visitors can make or break our social effectiveness. The church will experience vitality if we are vigilant in adjusting our styles and methods for optimal outreach.

Think about what you’d do if you lost a diamond ring. You might be willing to turn your house upside-down in your quest, and you would feel wonderful if you recovered the gem despite a messy search. Consider how much more precious is a human being, and how important it is in God’s eyes to help with a person’s redemption. Thinking about it in this manner can clarify your priorities amid many distractions.

Effective discipleship is tough partly because it requires constant updating of methods and techniques. Internally, each of us as God’s disciples strive to bridge the gap between who we are and what God wants us to become. The ongoing mission of the church—that’s us!—is to help restore people, even if this process is inconvenient. There are lost souls deserving of rescue, and in doing so we’ll likely find new disciples to serve the Almighty. So let’s do whatever it takes to make our church a place to help people find themselves, through a transforming relationship with God.     –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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