9/11/2016 Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Luke 15:1-10.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is 9/11. For many of us, this day brings back vivid memories. I was home watching the Today Show before coming into the office when the news of the plane hitting the first tower interrupted the program. I was glued to the TV as the horror of the day unfolded. You knew that there were going to be hundreds of people dead by the end of the day – people who were doing nothing wrong – working people who were going about their business.
The horror only became worse when the phone rang and Jane was on the other end. She was heading home from Maine going to Long Island, when the news came over the car radio. She was a nervous wreck. Not only did she not know how she was going to get home, but she had two sons who worked in NYC and she hadn’t heard from them. My home became her staging area as she tried to put pieces together and go on with her life.
That’s the way it was 15 years ago. The shock and horror of the day is part of the lives of anyone who experienced the events as they unfolded. We all experienced a loss that day – the loss of innocence and the loss of security, even if we didn’t lose a loved one in the carnage. We all struggled to find a foothold as buildings collapsed, planes were forced to land, and the news came that two of the flights had originated at Logan Airport – the same airport that I’m flying out from tomorrow morning.
We were lost back then, lost in our fear and confusion, and we didn’t know where to turn. We were lost and were captured in the wilderness of the unknown. And in this wilderness we searched for a direction and found it in a president who led us in prayer. We needed that prayer. We needed to hear the words – may God bless you. We needed to know that we were not alone wandering the wilderness of our unsafe world. We needed to know that God was with us.
The parables which make up today’s gospel are parables for the lost. They are parables for those who have wandered away and are struggling to make sense of their world. They are parables for people who know pain and fear, people who don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and people who feel trapped by the circumstances of life and the sin that invades our very being. They are parables of hope. For, in the darkest hours, when we don’t know where to turn, Christ is our shepherd who searches for us in order to carry us into the light of day. In the darkest hours, when we feel most alone and vulnerable, Christ is the one who stops what he is doing and searches for us until we are found. Even if we should give up hope and become handcuffed with despair, Christ will not stop looking for us in order to bring us home into the safety of the fold.
This is good news for those of us who remember 9/11. This is good news for those of us who are struggling with illness. This is good news for those who don’t know what to believe. And this is really good news for those who find themselves on the outside looking in. For, with Jesus there are no insiders and outsiders. All are sinners in need of God’s grace and all are saints through baptism into Christ. The starting point for Jesus is always grace: searching not blaming, finding not punishing, rejoicing not condemning.
If we fail to show up at our Lord’s invitation or we are lost in the wilderness of our lives and are missing, we have a Lord and Savior who will go the extra mile to search for us. And when we are found – when we are brought into safety in God’s care and receive forgiveness and grace – the heavens rejoice.
Today, we rejoice. We rejoice for many who have been away this summer are here. But, we also rejoice as we remember the events of the past, no matter how painful they may be, for we also remember all the good things that Christ has done for us and continues to do each day. So, my friends, today we rally around the cross, knowing that the one who died for our salvation will not forget us when we need him the most.
Sometimes what we need is prayer to remind us that God is with us. Sometimes, we need a kick in the pants to get us moving in the right direction. Sometimes, we need to be picked up and carried. The Lord knows what we need…and I pray that there will always be those around us to help us get out of the wilderness into the light of God’s grace.
So, remember, my friends – remember, listen and pray. Remember, my friends, and rally around the cross of Christ. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.