Sometimes, there are simply too many toads to kiss--I sometimes think that the parables this week best encapsulate what our attitude as a church ought to be. More specifically, I often wish it was the attitude expressed by the wider church, rather than the attitude above which we see play out in the world time after time. So often, we encounter in churches , and perhaps we wish our church was, a place where the righteous isolate themselves from the world. It is understandable. The world is a tough place. There, people put us down. There, diseases and worries and unemployment and wars and storms and disasters lurk. In the church, God is present. And maybe, just maybe, for a brief time, we can forget the cares of the world and feel safe again. While the attitude may be understandable, it certainly is not biblical, as Jesus reminds us this week.
As the parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin remind us (and most seriously the Cross), we exist for the lost, the abandoned, and the forgotten. Our primary job is to bring the love of God and the hope of His salvation to the very people that the world has forgotten or cast aside. Yet, so often we concern ourselves with secular concerns. Do we need to build a bigger building? How will cover the expenses of ___(fill in the blank)___? How do we increase our income? Or how do we cut our spending without affecting our program?
But as Jesus’ teachings remind us this weekend, we are a commissioned people. We are sent to seek out those Lost Sheep of God’s. You and I are called together each week to share our worries and our joys, to be instructed better in what He demands of us, to be fortified by His sacraments, and to be reminded that the outside of the Church is our mission field. And then He says simply, “Go, find, love.”
What might frustrate us even more is the simple truth that we are often called to seek and love those people who are sometimes not at all interested in being loved or found by God or served by another human being. Certainly, in our many ministries, we have found many people to be ungrateful, not at all thankful, and simply dismissive of our presence. We give sacrificially to help many, only to sometimes have sand kicked in our teeth as they sometimes declare us to be hardhearted when there simply are not enough resources available to meet all the need. And that rejection can begin to wear on a disciple, cause one or more to stay in the safety of the sanctuary, rather than to go.
Yet, God promises that His Word and His service are never wasted. Sometimes, another person may take years before they are even drawn into serious reflection and conversation. Sometimes, it may take a life-changing even in their life to cause them to question their attitude. And you and I are engaged so that we can begin to help the see the answer, His Gospel truth.
And the rewards? Notice in the parable that the location of a lost sheep or a lost coin leads the finder to call his or her community into celebration. God wants us to share in His desire to draw the world to Him and His joy over the decision of a sinner to choose Him over death. We are told that the celebration in heaven over the repentance of just one person is greater than the celebration over 99 righteous persons. Think about that for just a second. As happy as God and the angels and saints are this very second, you and I have the opportunity to magnify that joy through faithful service. You and I can bring joy to His kingdom, and we can even share in it ourselves.
But to experience that joy and to experience that satisfaction, to find those princes and princesses of God that come from disgusting toads, you and I have a lot of work to do. It may not be easy. It may not make sense. But then again, neither was nor did His work to save us easy or make much sense. It may be over a hand of bridge, it might be through a game like Farmville on-line, it might be a divine encounter, or even someone sitting next to you this second. The next toad that gets turned into one of His princes or princesses may even be you.