Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the third Sunday after Trinity 6/28/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity3 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the third Sunday after Trinity, click here.
Before the pandemic hit, First Lutheran had around 180 people in worship on a Sunday. Obviously, the last five months have changed that. All of a sudden, 99 people in church sounds like a good day and not a bad day.
It’s so good that we wouldn’t even take notice of the difference between 99 and 100. But Jesus would, and Jesus does.
Jesus sees the difference because 100 sheep isn’t a goal or a threshold itself. For Jesus, 100 isn’t really even a number in the strict sense. For Jesus, 100 is completeness. And so it is not really about having 100 sheep, but having 100 percent of the sheep. The point of Jesus’ parable is that He wants them all: every last one.
Jesus desires them so much so that He will go anywhere to find them. He will go from heaven to earth, and then from manger to cross. Whatever it takes.
The Pharisees don’t share His zeal. They are happy when the bills are paid, when the lamps all have plenty of oil, and when there is plenty of food on their tables.
Pharisees high-five each other when they manage to spend under their budget, and they can put something in savings. As long as that happens, who cares if one sheep is missing?
Who cares if one whom Jesus baptized hasn’t heard His voice in months or years? Who cares if those confirmed in the faith wander and fall away? They’re not big givers, and they don’t make a difference when the bills come due. So, what’s the difference? What does one sheep matter?
One sheep matters so much that Jesus drops everything, leaves the 99, and goes out in search of the one. The sheep whom He has called by name are His own, and He will not suffer to have a single one taken away from Him.
In what can only be described as reckless, impractical, Divine Love, the Good Shepherd goes out in search of the lost sheep, picks him up, and carries him home.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. verses 6-7
The Pharisees would have wondered, “How in the world is that repentance? The sheep didn’t come back; the Shepherd went out and found it. This story makes no sense.” And they would be right.
This parable makes no sense at all because it is about pure grace and mercy; the kind of grace and mercy that compel the Shepherd to leave the ninety-nine sheep in search of the one. That kind of grace and mercy is beyond us.
It would make more sense if the sheep just came to his senses and turned around. It would make more sense for us if repentance was just feeling bad for what you’ve done and promising to do better. But that’s not repentance. At least not the way Jesus talks about it.
As far as Jesus is concerned repentance is this: being found by Him carried home. It is nothing to brag about because you did not do it. After all, if the sheep could have found its way home, it would have; but it cannot. The only thing the sheep ever did to be found was to first be lost, which is hardly something to be proud of.
You and I have been born lost. This is how deeply the fall into sin has corrupted our human nature. But, thanks be to God, lost is not the end of us. Adam and Eve were given a Promise. God’s people were given a Covenant. And you and I have seen both of them fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who has sought us out.
You were lost, but Jesus has found you – there, in the font. In your baptism, Jesus found you. He picked you up, put you on His shoulders and brought you home. He brought you to repentance. He carried you there. He carried you here. In that baptism He joined Himself to you. You are found in Him and with Him.
And yet, in this life, the desire to be unfound can be intense. This brings us to the parable of the lost coin. Coins have value, but only when they are available, when they can be spent and put to good use. This is something you’re still not completely comfortable with, and so you tend to hide.
You hide when you keep your talents to yourself, lest you be put you to good use. You hide when you won’t support the work of the Church. You hide when you 80% lay everything on the 20%.
When the coin is lost, when it is hiding, it is of no use; so, the woman gets to sweeping. St. Ambrose understands this woman to be the Church, and that makes plenty of sense. The bride of Christ, the Church, wants nothing more than to have all her resources put into the use of the Kingdom. And while one coin remains hidden, she will not stop searching.
The woman lights a lamp, the light of God’s Word, and it shines everywhere. It lights up our darkness and invades all the places where you would seek to hide.
When that happens, your world can seem as if it is being turned upside down. Your lives, like furniture moved all around, suddenly feel out of order.
Maybe you liked things where they were. On top of that, the Light shows how dirty things have become, and how many cobwebs need to be swept away.
That kind of cleaning can be so uncomfortable, that you might just consider letting things stay a mess. But this isn’t your house. This is Jesus’ house. You are not lost. You are found. Christ has a better way of using you than you can imagine; and this is only because you are so very valuable.
So, what to do now? What do we do now that what was lost has been found? Rejoice. That’s what Jesus does.
He comes home, He calls together His friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost!” verse 6
When the Church preaches God’s Word and moves sinners from darkness to Light, when we are found again and again,
She calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!” verse 9
You were lost, but Jesus has found you – in the font, in your Baptism, in the Church. You would hide, but He has lit up your darkness, pulled you out, and now seeks to use you well.
This is the great joy of our Savior, who, when He brings you home, gathers His friends and neighbors and declares a feast.
He is the Shepherd who gathers the lost. He is the Light that seeks and finds. He is the Bread come down from Heaven, and He is here for you this very morning. You who were lost and are found, come rejoice.
This Man receives sinners and eats with them. verse 2