“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” Luke 15:32
I once heard about a congregation that was in transition between pastors, and so they were in the rhythm of having a variety of different preachers share the Word with them each week. It came to be Lent—in fact, it came to be Lent in Year C, which is the year of the lectionary we find ourselves in right now. Rather than panicking about the fact they didn’t yet have a called pastor and Easter was fast approaching, they decided to make good use of their transition status.
Seeing that the assigned Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday in Lent is the Prodigal Son parable from Luke, they decided on a “Prodigal Son” theme for the whole season. Each of the five different pastors who preached during Lent preached on that story and brought their own perspectives, their own hang-ups, their own issues, their own areas of common ground to it.
Now, this would not work with most Scripture passages. Hearing the same story five Sundays in a row could get a little tedious! But the Prodigal Son parable is one of the few that I think could work. It’s one of the best-known and yet one of the deepest bits of Scripture there is. It’s both thoroughly familiar and incredibly interesting all at the same time. We are all in there somewhere, whether we are prodigal or prudent or somewhere in between.
Years ago, Frank Welker used to always tell me about the years when he was the secretary of the synod and would be asked to go around to different churches on Sunday mornings, to be present for official business and usually to preach as well. He used to always have a sermon prepared on the Prodigal Son that he would preach at almost every church he visited, because it was a passage that he knew would speak to everyone. It’s all in there, he said. You’re either lost or you’re found. And the prodigal son was lost, but then he was found.
All of us, in some way, have experienced being lost and being found. Being lost is a scary thing, but beyond simply being unlocated, being lost describes us every time we sin, every time we do something that puts us out of sync from God’s heart, every time we act out of fear or anxiety or revenge. And being found is not a matter of us getting our act together and putting our head on straight and finding the way. It’s a matter of the prodigal FATHER, our loving God, who finds us and forgives us and welcomes us home again.
I won’t be reading the same Gospel reading for five Sundays in a row, but I am going to be preaching this Lent based on the theme of “Lost and Found,” and keeping this story in mind. If you would like to prepare, take some time and read the fifteenth chapter of Luke in your own Bible. It has three parables about this theme. Think about times in your life when you have been lost, or found, or both…think of times when someone you loved has been lost, or found, or both. Come and hear about our Lord Jesus, who like the Prodigal Father, never
gives up on finding each one of us.
Together in Christ,