The recognition of Sept. 11 has come and gone — and all those images of violence and hatred were revived in our minds…again.
This year, it seemed even more volatile with all the hoopla over Terry Jones and his proposed Quran burning and Imam Rauf and that mosque at Ground Zero. Lots of things were said, but what is the real issue here?
Let me ask you this. When you see video clips of 10 year-old boys in the Middle East being trained to want to kill Americans and indoctrinated that if they die in that act — their eternity is sheer bliss — how does that make you feel? Do you get angry? Do you wish we would just go over there and wipe them out?
Or maybe you don’t get too worked up about world events. There are enough people causing problems around you right here, right? Whether it’s the criminals making your taxes go up to take care of all of their damage done or the family member who can’t seem to get along, or the acquaintance that thinks way too highly of herself, there are all sorts of people making your life difficult, causing you problems. Do you ever wish they would just leave you alone and stop affecting and infecting your life?
Let me tell you a story. Actually, it’s a story Jesus told in Luke 15. He told it to people who were thinking just like we just described, and it shows that God’s thinking when it comes to those who hate him is very different from ours.
There is a lamb. The lamb gets lost. The lamb didn’t try to get lost, it just got lost. It got preoccupied and didn’t notice when the flock was leaving or where it was going. It got carried away with whatever it was doing — it got lost.
Do you know anyone like that? Any of those people that were annoying you — the thugs, the wayward, the people in your life that think way too highly of themselves or only of themselves? Do you think they set out for that? Do you think they wanted to get like that?
No. But still, they are like that. And those terrorists on the other side of the world are just going with what they were told, right?
I guess understanding that might temper our anger a bit, but nothing like we see in the story. There, the shepherd loved instead of hated that lamb that was lost. As mad as it could’ve made him that the sheep didn’t listen to his voice, he remembered its value and he went after it. He searched and searched. If his celebration was any indication, this was a tough search, over rocky terrain, in the hot sun, in the places you didn’t want to go. He sought out that silly sheep to his great pain, and then when he found it, there was no anger, but celebration.
This is the love God has for us. So great is his love and rejoicing in us that even the angels in his presence can’t help but join the celebration brought on by His love.
We were more lost than that lamb. Our sins made us look worse in God’s eyes than the kids trained to hate us look in our eyes. The way you feel about those people who annoy you is hypocritical and unappreciative to the God who loved you when you hated him and fought against him.
But still, he searched. He reaches out to you and finds you. He doesn’t desire to destroy us, just like he doesn’t want to destroy those terrorists on the other side of the world.
Instead, he seeks us out. And look at how difficult that search was. First, he needed to find one to take your sin. And there was only one perfect one, only one able, his sinless Son. And so God gave up his only begotten. He offered his son to the terrorism of our sins, the massacre of a Roman cross. And Jesus died…willingly, because God loves you that much, because our God seeks the lost.
Jesus came to seek you out, to save you, because he values you, even if no one else does. He values you at the price of his life. Remember that love for the lost and soon, you’ll be showing it too.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.