CHILDREN'S STORY & SONG
READINGS: LUKE 15:8-10 & JOHN 12:23-33
SERMON - NEVER LOST TO GOD
SONG FOR REFLECTION:
LOST & FOUND BY ROBIN MARK
When the rain falls
And it some days will
And the pavement under my feet
Sparkles silver in gold
In reflective light
That I otherwise wouldn't have seen
When the storm comes
And the strong wind blows
I will bow my head to push through
And every step that I take
I will watch and pray
And be sure my foothold is true
Jesus, don't you keep me from that storm
I want to walk that sacred ground
For You are Master of it all
And I am but a lost and found
And in the dry place
In the wilderness
When Your words seem so far away
I will think of my life and I will
Bless Your name
For Your promises never have failed
And when the night falls
At the end of days
I will lift my eyes to the Heavens
And we will shine like the stars
For eternal days
In Your presence forever and ever
Never Lost to God
I recently saw two stories in the news about people who were reunited with family members after years of separation.
On the 19th July the BBC ran the story of Tony May, who was abandoned by his parents on the Victoria Embankment by the River Thames in London in the middle of world war II. With the help of a DNA detective Julia Bell, eventually the mystery of his abandonment was solved and he became united with a half sister on his mom’s side who lived not far from him here in the UK as well as a half sister on his Dad’s side living in Australia.
And then a few days later, I came across an article dated from May last year about a young man in China who had been abducted from his parents at around the age of 2 and a half when the toddler asked for water, and his father stopped at the entrance of a hotel to get some. For three decades, his Mom kept up the search for him.
Eventually after more than three decades, a tip-off in late April of 2019 finally led to the long-awaited and hoped for reunion. Authorities had utilised facial recognition technology to to match baby photo’s with an adult photo on the national database and then confirming with a DNA test.
Both of these stories are heart-rending stories of being lost and found. Stories of separation and being re-united. They show the power of human determination to search and never give up.
It raises the question: If human beings can be this determined, why do we think less of God. If a mother would spend 32 years searching for a lost son, why do we think less of God. Why do we think that God, the Most High, the Eternal One, who Jesus called Abba, would ever give up on us? If a DNA detective like Julia Bell can be so determined to help Tony May, why do human beings have such a low view of God to believe that God could ever abandon or forsake us?
Another question comes to mind? If God is all-knowing, and all-loving, then surely, we are never ever truly lost. Because God knows where we are and has the ability to bring us back home in the end.
Even when we feel lost, no-one is ever lost to God. Even when a friend or loved one feels lost to us, no-one is lost to God, the Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Compassion in which all things exist.
But many Christians live with this frightening possibility that we will be lost and separated from God forever. At the root of many a Christian faith is a terrible fear of Eternal Hell and Damnation.
But the Scriptures are filled with passages that speak of the Divine intention to bring all of us home no matter how far we stray.
This is the sense that one gets reading the prophets. Even when the people of Israel feel lost in exile, the voice of God is heard to say again and again, “Do not fear! I will bring you home.” In Ezekiel, “I will search for my sheep. I will save them and bring them back from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.” (Ez 34:12).
In the parable of the lost coin, we have to admit that lost coins cannot find themselves. There are many in this world who feel they have strayed so far from God, and are so lost, that like a lost coin, they will never be able to find themselves again. But just as the lost coin was valuable to the woman in the parable, so the suggestion in the parable is that we are valuable to God, and even when, unlike the prodigal son, cannot turn and come home God will make sure that we are found in the end.
One of my favourite quotes from Huston Smith is: It is impossible to fall out of the Infinite… The full quote reads as follows: “The ...Infinite’s inclusiveness is an all-encompassing circle that encompasses our finite universe and out of which it is impossible to fall, for “In Him we live and move and have our being”. (Soul of Christianity page 3). In other words, we can never fall out of God. You can never be utterly lost to God.
In the 2nd letter to Timothy, we read an interesting line that says, “God desires all people to be saved...” Another way of putting this is that God desires all people to come home to God. As Rob Bell puts it… are we really to believe that God cannot accomplish that which God desires. As Jesus says of the rich young man who is lost in his attachment to his wealth, and unable to let go of it in order to follow Jesus, “What is impossible for human beings is not impossible for God”. Even the Rich Young Man who chooses his wealth over God will in the end be brought home.
In John’s Gospel we hear of the universal love of Christ that will bring salvation and wholeness to all people: John 12:32: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” Not just some, but all. No matter how far they have strayed, all people will be brought home again. In the end, all people will be drawn back by the irresistible love of God. Love will break through even the hardest of defences. As the Tao Te Ching put’s it: “The softest thing in the world overcomes the hardest.”
And so, like the love of that Chinese mother searching for her kidnapped child, or even the DNA detective, searching for Tony May’s lost family, no-one in the end is ever so lost, that God's irresistible love expressed in Christ Jesus will not be able to draw us back to God's Self.
And so, when you feel lost or that you have strayed far away, or perhaps when you worry about a friend or family member who feels lost in some way, or who it feels like they are straying far away, may we never doubt the love of God made known in Jesus, and that no-one ever is or ever can be truly lost, for no-one is ever lost to God. You can never fall out of the infinite.
I close with two passages of Scripture:
Psalm 27:10 Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.
Isaiah 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!