The pursuit of excellence. The hunt for the prize. The victory of a game. Have you ever been in pursuit of something, knowing you have to work really hard to achieve it? How about training for a marathon, running it and savoring the moment you cross that finish line? Have you ever lost something, spent hours trying to find it (I am thinking of my mother and her constant “pursuit” of finding her glasses 🙂 ), and then you are so pleased when you do, even if it’s just for a moment? How about that one photo from your childhood that you just have to find, digging through bins or an online album? Or have you ever even had that moment where you are trying to remember someone’s name from your past and it comes to you in the middle of the night? All these examples may spark even a little adrenaline rush. We have little things and big things we chase after all the time.
In today’s story, Luke 15, Jesus uses parables to relate to his pursuit of Christians or pursuit of turning sinners into Christians. He first gives us the parable of the lost sheep. He relates to our desire to find something that is lost. Wouldn’t we all go find that one lost sheep even if it meant leaving the rest of the herd behind? And then, rejoice, we find that lost one. Maybe there are some in the world who wouldn’t go after that one lost sheep, but many would chase down that one sheep. He wants us all celebrating one sheep or one Christian.
Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The second parable also appeals to many people. The parable of the lost coin. Would we not try to find that lost coin if we lost one and knew it was on the ground, in a corner, if we could just find it.
‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Hunting for little things is sometimes frustrating, but we do it, right? These first two parables are interesting as they relate to “things”.
The third parable tugs at us, particularly those of us who are parents and those of us who may still be very close to our parents. The parable of the lost son. In this story, the son is lost. Lost in the world, off to find his way, do his own thing, throw away his money all to pursue his selfish ways and gain “freedom”. While away, his loyal brother works hard, pleases his father and does what he views is right. When his father celebrates the return of his brother, the eldest is made. He does not think it is fair! He has been the one doing well, fulfilling his father’s wishes, God’s plan for him. But he can’t help himself and is upset. His father calms him but acknowledging his hard work, loyalty and commitment, but also helps us understand the need to celebrate when a lost sole is found.
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
All three parables help us understand God’s pursuit. His hard work to help sinners become Christians. His hard work to help Christians remain Christians. To help the believers who sin to confess their sins and to continue on his path. His job is so hard some days! And if you don’t think so, pick 10 (or 100 or 1000) people in your head. Think of all God has to do for each one of those individuals. Wow. Yes he chases us down. He is on for the chase, the hunt, the game of pursuit of people. Thankfully, he does not give up, whether the task is large or small. He rejoices and celebrates each and every one of us he finds. He puts his hands in the air and signals VICTORY!
**Special note: This photo was taken during the Boston Marathon the year after the bombing. As I wrote this post, I was looking for someone crossing the finish line, and then I remembered this sign of triumph as I saw my kids at the last turn. The idea of pursuit reminded of the many days of training (pursuing) with my good friend Teresa Herbert. How pleased we were to finish – yes, hands in the air! She is running Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, and I know she will have her hands in the air as she crosses the finish line after months of pursuit. May God watch over her and all the runners. May God continue to provide opportunities for us to raise our hands in the air as Christians coming together in victory and may we respond to the pursuits he places in our paths.
Additional reading: Psalm 64