A short reflection; part of a Taizé-style evening service.
Lost and found
Some familiar words that we’re not singing tonight, in this Taizé-style service:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost but now I’m found,
was blind but now I see.
We heard in tonight’s Gospel reading:
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
To the religious people, they were sinners, unclean, unworthy; in his parables, Jesus gave them their true name: ‘lost’. A lost sheep, a lost coin. And then a lost son, whom we usually call the Prodigal Son.
There’s a psychological payoff when we name people ‘sinners’. It means that we are not ‘sinners’. We can’t be sinners. How could we see their sin if we were?
There’s a psychological payoff when we name people ‘unclean’. It means that we are ‘clean’. We must be clean. How else could we see their dirt?
There’s a psychological payoff when we name people ‘unworthy’. It means that we are ‘worthy’. Of course we’re worthy. How else could we see their lack of worth?
Things are a very different when, with Jesus, we name people ‘lost’, if we always keep this in mind:
I once was lost but now I’m found.
We are found. But that means that we too were once lost. We too needed to be found. What’s more, we’re still needing to be found.
The parables Jesus tells are about looking for the lost. We can say that once we were ‘lost’; but do we know that we are still partly lost? Because we are. We’ve got ‘lost’ parts of ourselves. We doubt ourselves; we have our besetting sins, our disappointments, brokenness, failures and fears. We are both ‘lost’ and ‘found’. We belong in God’s lost and found department.
Sometimes our lostness can cripple us: these doubts, disappointments, failures and fears stop us from being the people God made us to be. But if we know what it is to receive the free gift of God’s forgiveness and acceptance, we can begin to accept the lost parts of ourselves. We know what it is to be separated from God—yet also to be brought into communion with God and with God’s people.
‘I once was lost, but now I’m found.’ That’s not the whole story though: parts of us are still lost; parts of us—our fears, our self-doubts, our bitternesses, our brokennesses—still need to be found. Our first instinct may be to hide these part of ourselves from God, as Adam and Eve tried to hide their nakedness in the Garden. But we can’t hide from God.
But why should we want to hide from the God who loves us? Let’s not hide these parts of ourselves from the God who seeks and saves whatever is lost. If we open ourselves to God, then the Spirit can work her hidden healing work in us. Let’s continue to open ourselves to God, to allow these ‘lost’ parts of ourselves to be found and healed and come to life. Amen.