Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The parables our Lord tells in today’s Gospel are stories about the compassion and mercy of God. They are touching and heartwarming because they show us to what great lengths our Lord Jesus will go in order to seek us out. He will not abandon us. He will never give up on us. He will do whatever it takes to seek us out. And He will be diligent and relentless.
At the same time, these parables are also stories about the Church. We know this because the goal is not simply to find the one lost sheep, but to return it to the other 99. The goal is not simply to find the one lost coin, but to reunite it in the purse with the other coins. And if we read further in Luke’s Gospel, the goal is not simply the repentance of the lost and prodigal son. Rather, the goal is that this son is restored, reunited, and reincorporated into the family—not as a slave, but as a son, just as he had been before.
With these parables we see how the mercy of God goes. It compels the Lord to seek out the lonely and the separated—those who have unknowingly or even willfully cut themselves off from the Lord and His Church. And the Lord’s mercy compels Him not just to find them, but also to bring them back into the Church. The Lord’s mercy compels Him not just to expend great cost in getting to them, but also in returning them. The lost sheep is not safe until both the sheep and Shepherd are back in the fold. The lost coin is not secured until it is put back where it belongs. And the lost son is not reconciled until he is embraced by his father and welcomed back into the family.
So it is with us. We are not saved until we are “safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church,” as Luther says in his baptismal prayer. That ought to be our constant prayer—for ourselves and for each other. Our prayer ought always be not just that we are delivered from our sinful selves, but also that we live all our days in Christ’s holy Church; not just that we are snatched from the jaws of death, but also that we gathered with the faithful, living and departed, at the Holy Supper; and not just that we are saved from the loneliness into which Satan leads us, but also that the Lord mercifully puts us in His family, the Church, so that our love might be full, both in Him and toward each other.
It is not enough that God in His mercy finds us. He also has the desire, the will, the compassion to bring us to His heavenly home. That is what we see in the parables our Lord tells us. The Shepherd goes searching, not just to seek, but also to save—to place us safely in His fold. And the woman, who depicts the Spirit of God, searches diligently—not for the joy of the hunt, but so that she might make us whole by gathering us with all other faithful Christians. Our Lord seeks us out so that He may return us to where we belong: to His holy Church.
In searching for us, our Lord gives up His life to unite us in His body. This body is known throughout the world in those churches which hold to the doctrine the apostles were sent to preach, who celebrate the Supper our Lord instituted. This is the Church; it is the flock of Christ; it is our Father’s home. It is where the faithful gather: the angels, the archangels, and the whole company of heaven. Here He constantly seeks you when you are determined to go your own way. Here you are protected from the assaults of the devil. Here the Lord continues to extend His mercy to you, until the day when He calls you to unite with Him forever in His eternal home. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.