We have a Lost and Found box in the lobby of our church. It’s not a big box and it’s on top of the coat rack. I look in it every so often, just to see what’s in there, but it’s not much. And the contents doesn’t really change very often: an odd glove, an old pair of sunglasses, a pair of children’s socks (yes, socks), a well-used small action figure or two, a baseball hat with a logo on it, some ear buds. There’s a little more, but you get the idea.
No one ever seems to claim any of these things. And they’re not going anywhere by themselves. They’re just sitting there, waiting to be found, probably by the person who lost them, but I’m sure they’d settle for just about anyone who found them useful again.
I think that’s sad. Imagine being a pair of sunglasses or an old action figure, well-used but still with lots of life left in you. You sit there in that box, day after day, waiting to be found, the monotony of your surroundings only broken by the occasional addition of one more thing being tossed in the box. One more thing someone lost and will probably never find.
The thing is, you were found. You were found by the person who put you in the box, thinking that, someday, someone will come for you. Maybe the box should say “Lost and Found and Lost.” But it doesn’t seem like anyone comes for you. Maybe they’re not even looking. Maybe you’re just not worth the trouble. I think that’s even more sad.
Are you thinking I’m being ridiculous? Maybe. But Luke says that Jesus told short parables about a shepherd who lost one of his one hundred sheep and a woman who lost one of ten coins (Luke 15:1-10). The shepherd risked all the other sheep to find that one and the woman would not stop until she found the single coin. Both celebrated the recovery of the sheep and the coin as if they were of the greatest value to them.
Would you have done the same? Or would you have, quite sensibly, balanced the value of the thing lost with the cost of searching for it and, again quite reasonably, arrived at the conclusion that it wasn’t worth the trouble? It’s common sense, really, isn’t it? Some things are just so easily replaced, if, in fact, you really need it. And if you don’t, why even look for it?
But Jesus tells these stories in response to the pharisees and scribes complaining that the worst kinds of people were coming to hear him. (You remember the pharisees and scribes: they always seemed to be very well aware of their own righteousness and the unrighteousness of others.) Why, they seem to wonder, would Jesus waste his time on “tax collectors and sinners?” It just doesn’t make sense.
No, it doesn’t, and that’s the point. We judge and value everything because it makes sense to us to do so, from a lost glove or pair of sunglasses to people. Are they worth the trouble? What kind of effort do I have to make? What will it cost me? But Jesus never asked those questions. Jesus loved those we would judge the hardest to love. Jesus reached out to the helpless. Jesus chose those that were valued the least and risked everything for them.
This is The Way that Jesus challenges us to follow, the way that offers love to all, with engagement, not judgement.