Sunday Worship 6th September- Lost and Found
Opening words: Matthew 18:11
"I came to seek and save those who are lost"
The theme lost and found loosely links with our picnic and Treasure Hunt activity today - we are hoping that no one gets lost!
The theme is actually of God seeking every last lost sheep and not resting until they are found.
Do you have a desire, a deep desire to worship and to know the Lord God, and to understand the values of the kingdom? Come, then, and worship – for Jesus says, where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
O Lord our God, we sometimes tremble as we think of who we are and who you are. Bring us now, in this moment, to know you. See us as we are, and see our yearning to be more like you. May we lay aside anything that hinders our journey with you, and with our friends and neighbours. Amen.
‘Listen carefully…with the ear of your heart…’ These are the opening words of the Rule of St Benedict. God of all individuals and all communities, of all giving and all receiving, grant us the stillness of spirit to give attention to you, and the generosity of heart to give attention to our neighbours.
Psalm 23 Ezekiel 34:11-16. 23-27 Matthew 18:10-14
Comments on bible readings:
These Bible readings are all about one aspect of Jesus, they speak of the God who is the Shepherd of his people. Psalm 23 is a beautiful well known Psalm which actually talks about God as the Shepherd, The Lord is my Shepherd, He guides me he leads me he feeds me they are beautiful words that describe exactly what God does for us.
And then we move to the book of Ezekiel and here once again Ezekiel describes God as the Shepherd of his people, But not any Shepherd he is in fact the Good Shepherd for he will lead them into Meadows and valleys he will look for those who are lost he will heal the sick he will bless them and he will give them a King, like David to look after them and keep them safe.
In the Old Testament, we already have these beautiful images of God as a Shepherd and of course Jesus as always takes it one stage further. For Jesus describes himself as The Good Shepherd and in Johns gospel we read that he is the one who literally will stand over or lie across the opening to the fold as a gate to protect them, He is the one that will search for them seek them until He finds them, it is a beautiful image of Jesus as the Shepherd.
The sheep appear with the shepherds at the very beginning of Jesus’s birth. It is the shepherds on the hillside who were the first people to be told of Jesus’s birth. When's they got over their initial shock they ran, yes literally ran, until they reached the stable where Jesus was and there they gathered round, this ragamuffin group of smelly shepherds with some of their sheep to worship the Son of God.
And then we come to this New Testament story found in Luke as well as in Matthew but it's the Matthew one that obviously I want us to concentrate and focus on. I wonder if any of you have ever actually got lost? I wonder if you did get lost what that felt like? if you've got lost as a child that must be even worse but if you lose your child somewhere in a shop the panic that ensues must be unbearable when you realise your child has wandered off and you don't actually know where they've gone.
We might think that sheep don't actually matter that much, and I guess if you've got 100 sheep the fact that one goes missing is probably not that important. However, a Good Shepherd would want to find that lost sheep and we all know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Therefore, he left the 99 to go and seek for the one that was lost. Now this was dangerous because if he was alone then the 99 might have wandered off the 99 might have been attacked by Wolves or bears or other dangerous animals roaming around, they might even have been stolen by other shepherds, so it was very risky to leave the 99 and yet the one that was missing meant so much to the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, that He was prepared to go and search for the one lost sheep. In the same way, God is the one who is really worried about us being lost, whereas we ourselves don't often realise there's a problem. This story really shows us what sort of God Jesus was talking about.
God is a surprising God - God bothers about the one in a hundred, which is a statistic so easily discounted in our present society. God is also very un-shepherd like, in that he doesn't send his servants to do the searching but goes after the sheep himself. God literally sent Jesus his only son to come and search for us and save us.
God is a searching God - God is a God who comes looking for us, who takes the initiative to find us. He takes risks to do so and won't give up trying to bring us home to safety.
God is a saving God - God wants to rescue us from danger and make sure we are safe from harm. Even in the darkest of places and in the darkest of times even when we think that God is not there He is. He will always be there to save us, to bring us home, to keep us safe. There is never any place that we can go to hide from him Psalm 139 tells us that as does Romans chapter 8. Psalm 139 almost does it in a negative but actually it's a very positive statement because wherever we are God knows where we are, Jonah tried to hide from God he runaway but God still knew where he was, and when the ship began to tussle and turn and Jonah was thrown overboard God sent a whale to save him and protect him. You see it is good news - we can never run we can never hide but the assurance of that means that God always knows he's always there. And in Romans we read those beautiful, beautiful words that there is nothing, nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, wow what brilliant word they are. God is a saving God he will find us wherever we are and bring us safely home.
God is a shouldering God - God lifts us up to a place of safety, close to himself, and carries our burdens and takes the weight of our lost-ness on to himself. I was reminded of that beautiful anonymous poem about footprints in the sand , we're all very familiar with that poem, but the image of one set of footprints when I needed God most was a really heart rending question , but God answers it in a very simple way , my child I didn't leave you it was then that I carried you . No burden of ours is ever too big for the son of God to pick it up and to carry it for us, yet the biggest burden He carried was the burden of our sin. For He took that cross upon his shoulders, He carried that cross, and He was hung on that cross for our sins. There is no depths or heights that God will not go to, to take our burden away from us.
God is a smiling God - God loves to celebrate you and me and share that joy with others. The end of the Story like all good stories has a very happy ending, a party! Jesus rejoices that the los sheep has been found in the same way He rejoices when a sinner has been saved. I like to imagine heaven is a one big party as hour by hour, day by day and month by month people are turning to Jesus. We too need to celebrate when someone enters the kingdom.
God is our Good Shepherd, he will continue to surprise us with how much He loves us, he will search for us when we go our own way, He has saved us for all times by His death on the cross, He will take our burdens away from us and he will smile as we run into His arms.
What a wonderful Shepherd He is.
In the higgledy-piggledy ways of life, Lord, with challenges and changes pulling us this way and that, we sometimes find it hard, in the heat of the moment, to know what is right and what is wrong. Forgive us for our failings and wrongdoings. Forgive our insensitivities to the ways of others. Forgive anything that cuts us off from each other or from you. Amen.
God of the vastness of all that is, of all peoples and communities, here we are, part of this place; gathering to worship and adore you, marvelling at your love and care and your persistence with us.
You are beyond our imagining. Again and again, we are engulfed in your vastness and love. How can we do anything but praise you, again and again? Amen.
Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd’ and so we pray:
Good Shepherd, watch over us today In all we face and experience.
Never leave us or forsake us and journey with us always.
Good Shepherd, you know us as no-one else