Saturday, September 11, 2010
Sometimes we lose things. Headphones and cell phones. Coffee cups. The odd shoe or sock. Car keys. Cars – I hate when I misplace the car. Piper and I were at college orientation back in July and I went to go get our car from the parking garage. Except there were several identical parking garages near the student center and I had no idea which one we had used. I went with my gut (always a dangerous thing for me) and headed off in a promising direction. Ten minutes later I found myself standing in the wrong garage with no idea how to find my car. When the next garage is half a mile distant one can click the door remote a hundred times and it ain’t going to do nothing.
Sometimes it is we, ourselves, who are lost. Years ago when we were stationed on the island of Guam Piper and I got a babysitter for Christian and headed off with a guidebook out into the wilderness. It was one of the guidebooks that had directions like “Make a left at the big rock that looks like a witch” or “in ten paces you should see a small tree in front of you.” Of course at one point I lost count and then couldn’t find the tree. And if I couldn’t find the tree than every direction after that point didn’t make sense. The ground turned swampy and then we saw this big old rusty tank in front us, the kind left over from World War II. And then we ran into a bunch of guys carrying machetes. So much for a romantic afternoon hike.
Even with today’s technology, with GPS’s built into our cell phones and the web at our fingertips, we can still get lost. If you don’t believe me I have three words for you: Miami International Airport.
There is a different kind of lost in this world. There is a kind of lost that no GPS can help with. That Mapquest cannot help with. That even Google cannot help with. Are you with me? You know what I am talking about?
Pottery class in Baltimore was my time. My personal time. The time where I could just relax. Where people knew my name and that was it. A time where I could take a lump of clay and shape it with some sort of vision and usually have it explode on me in the kiln. The teacher grew up with John Waters and had bit parts in Hairspray and several of his other movies. The class discussion typically featured conversation about what veterinarian might offer medication for a human toothache or who was getting thrown out of their apartment or who almost got mugged that week. That sort of thing. I listened and kept to myself, but I just couldn’t keep keeping to myself when the conversation turned to deeper questions that probed life and this world of ours. Some were raised Christian and then left the faith. Some were suspicious of Christians and probably had a right to be based upon some of the experiences that they shared. I was surrounded by people who had either walked away from the faith or who were frightened of it and who lived in a world deep in the inner city that I was unaccustomed to and uncomfortable with. Yet, there I was. “What do you do?” one person ventured poking and prodding a lump of red clay. “I’m a Lutheran pastor,” I responded because that is what I was and am. And then I could no longer hide and the questions flowed and the stories flowed and I struggled in my own way to bear witness to my faith and the journey that had led me there.
You and I are children through baptism of a God who is peculiar. A God who honors and celebrates a vision of community bigger than our vision. Bolder than our vision. More inclusive than our vision and then challenges us to recast our vision to look more like God’s. In today’s gospel we learn that our God, in and through Christ Jesus, hung out with the wrong kind of people and declared that the wrong kind of people were exactly the kind of people that had a special place in God’s heart: The lost, the broken, the outcasts, the sinners. People like us and not like us. And also declared, as I read it, that such people ought to be the focus of our ministry. Not the only focus, but the primary one. That is what missional congregations do – they live out the Great commission – to Go Make Disciples. Disciples seek to make more disciples who in turn make more disciples and grow the Kingdom of God. It is multiplication folks: disciples making disciples making disciples.
So if we are going to roll up our sleeves and get to work in this multiplication business we need to establish relationships with the very people that the Lord has placed into our lives for us to find for the sake of the Kingdom. Who are the lost people in our lives? Every lost sheep has a name. Whose name has the Lord written in your heart?