How To Find Your Soul
Third Sunday after Holy Trinity
July 7-8, 2019
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is written: Rejoice with Me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Thus far the text.
Jesus Carrying A Lost Lamb
It’s an iconic picture. Jesus carrying His lamb over His shoulders. The mother sheep walking at His side looking up at Jesus. Jesus smiling.
Today, Jesus is telling a string of parables. Jesus finds lost sheep. Jesus finds lost souls.
Losing Loved Ones
I have lost many things in my life. And so have you.
For example, I have lost a child at a county fair. Turn around and gone. Search a little bit nothing. Panic. Search a little more. Nothing. Then they are there again. Thanks be to God.
Another example. As many of you know, last year I lost my mom. A bruise turned into a blood clot which turned into a massive stroke all within one week. Many of you have experienced the lost loved ones, too.
But neither of those losses compare to how I lost my soul.
Losing My Soul
It started before I was confirmed. I sat down with the pastor. He asked me why I wanted to be confirmed and what I planned to do as a confirmed member of the church.
Well I wanted to be confirmed because I believe in Jesus. Ok.
What would I like to do after confirmation? I wanted to know what my friends churches taught. Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, UCC, and more. The friends I had? Had no idea what they believed. Ok.
But it wasn’t ok. The pastor, eventually, got really mad. He chewed me out. Those other churches were pathways away from God. It really hurt to be yelled at by a pastor. The wound was pretty deep.
As time passed, I became angry.
A few years later I was confirmed. But I sat there thinking that I really don’t believe this stuff. I was beginning to see Jesus as an angry guy. That made two of us.
Entering college, I just wasn’t all that interested in Jesus or church. But, I still had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. To address that I took a risk. I silently declared myself an atheist. I celebrated Christmas with my family but silently thought it a joke. I went to an Easter service with my mom but silently laughed that anyone could rise from the dead.
I couldn’t articulate it back then. But in hindsight, over the course of a few years, I had lost my soul.
What does today’s Gospel lesson have to say about this?
Only Jesus The Good Shepherd Can Find A Lost Soul
Jesus is anxious to find anyone who has lost their soul. He makes this clear in today’s parable of the lost sheep. The parable comes about because Jesus is mingling with the pastors of His day. Those pastors are grumbling against Jesus. They are upset the Jesus receives sinners and willingly eats with them.
So Jesus tells them a parable saying,
What man of you, having a hundred sheep,
if he has lost one of them,
does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and
go after the one that is lost,
until he finds it?
The implied answer is that any shepherd of sheep would search for a lost sheep. Jesus is saying that any pastor of souls would search for a lost soul. Which is a weighty command.
The Good Shepherd
There are many shepherds of sheep. There are many pastors of souls. But there is only One Good Shepherd. There is only One Good Pastor & Bishop of our souls. His name is Jesus Christ. And Jesus is anxious to find lost souls.
Jesus is anxious to find you and change the arc of your story.
Maybe you have a skeleton in your closet that you are too ashamed to confess. I get it.
Maybe you have a secret from your spouse and are convinced no good would come from bringing it into open pasture. Ok, I get it. You love your spouse so much that you don’t want to bring anymore hurt & pain into the marriage. Got it.
Maybe you have a hidden unbelief in Jesus but come here just because you love your family and they want you to attend. Ok. Again, I get it.
You Can’t Lose Your Soul But Not Unbelief
But it won’t be ok. Because although you can lose your soul quite easily, you can’t leave your sin and unbelief behind. One you exchange your soul for unbelief you do not have the strength to believe again. You can’t do anything to get it back. What is lost is lost.
A lost sheep does not find its way back to the flock.
A lost coin does not find its way back to the woman of the house.
A prodigal son does not find his way back to his father’s good graces.
Only Jesus Can Find Your Lost Soul
And when Jesus has found you,
He lays you on his shoulders,
The Good Shepherd find your sin - and rejoices. The Good Shepherd takes up your unbelief - and rejoices. The Good Shepherd is not angry with those who confess their sins and intend to do better. Who confess their sins to God first and then humbly seeking to make right those they have hurt. Quite the opposite. Jesus rejoices that He finds your soul and gives you life.. He gives you saving faith and the strength to reconcile with others.
The Good Shepherd speaks tenderly to the lost in a most friendly manner. Jesus takes you into His care, holds you, and carries you. You who believe in Jesus. You who intend to do better toward the people around you with the help of Jesus..
Jesus Changes Your Story
Your story of sin and shame is only half your story in Jesus.
The same with your secrets from your spouse and your unbelief before God.
In Jesus you get the better half of your story.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who found you by showing what you lost through the proclamation of His law. You lost your soul. Faith says Amen to that.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who binds your wounds with His Gospel. The Good News of Jesus’ death, and resurrection, and ascension into heaven. For you.
Jesus Found Me Without My Help
I don’t blame my pastor, all those years ago, for being upset with me. I’m sure I sugar coated my memories of that moment. That pastor was more concerned about my soul than I was.
I don’t blame my parents, family, friends, or even my enemies for losing my soul. Jesus says that that is all on me. To Him I answer: Amen.
Jesus Finds You Without Your Help
If you have lost your soul or are in the process of losing your soul, then I urge you to listen again to your Good Shepherd. The One who carries your sin and unbelief to the cross and brings you to His Holy Father. The One who changes your story of sin and shame into a story sanctified in Jesus. A story worth singing about:
Lord, To You I Make Confession
The hymn writer Johann Franck, 1618 to 1677, put the best part of your story into the hymn we just sang.
Listen to the first stanza again:
Lord, to You, I Make Confession, I have sinned and gone astray,
I have multiplied transgression, chosen for myself my way.
Led by You to see my errors, Lord, I tremble at Your terrors.
Faith says, “Amen to that.”
But then listen the last stanza again:
Lord, on You, I cast my burden - sink it in the deepest sea!
Let me know Your gracious pardon, cleanse me from iniquity.
Let Your Spirit leave me never, make me only yours forever.
Saving faith says, “Amen to that.”
Jesus Announces A Feast
Jesus finds you.
Jesus rejoices to bring you home.
But that’s not the end of your story with Jesus,
Jesus calls all His children together. Even those who are in this sanctuary with you. And He announces a feast.
Jesus is never content to just rejoice alone. He gathers His whole church, in heaven and on earth, for a feast. He celebrates with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. You are found.
The angels sing for joy. Your are found.
And we your brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven because God found you; in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.