Sermon 9/11/2016 “Finding the one”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Church of the Resurrection
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Day: 17Pentecost, Proper 19, Year C

“Finding the one”


The character Morpheus from the trailer of the 1999 movie The Matrix

I wonder how many of you saw “The Matrix” movie in 1999? In this movie (and its two 2003 sequels) humans are all imprisoned in a virtual world called the Matrix. In these movies, what we perceive as reality isn’t actual, isn’t real. Instead, what’s going on is that we are all in a computer program that is harvesting our life energy for its own use.

Our Matrix hero, Neo, was played by Keanu Reeves. Neo is “THE One,” capital T and capital O, a savior-like character who can free everyone from the prison of their lives.

Sound vaguely familiar, somehow? What intrigued me about these movies wasn’t Neo—THE One—the Christ-like figure. I KNEW how Neo’s story would unfold. Neo would struggle to accept his destiny as THE One but eventually would do so then die redeeming the whole world. I’ve read the “script,” even before the movies were written. No, what intrigued me about these movies was a character named Morpheus, one of the leaders of the human resistance fighters.

The resistance members all knew their mission: Find THE One, convince him he WAS THE One, and help him to free all humankind to live their God-given lives. A prophet had told Morpheus that he himself wasn’t THE One, but would be the person who would find THE One.

So Morpheus spent his life in search of THE One. Over and over again he found people of great promise and told them they were “The One,” (capital T, capital O), THE One, who would save the world.

Jesus told a story in today’s gospel lesson about searching for “the one.” Little T, little O, the one, the one who was lost. In Jesus’ story, Jesus wasn’t “the one” because Jesus wasn’t lost. There were a lot of people who had found Jesus in our gospel lesson today. In today’s lesson, “all the tax collectors and sinners” had found Jesus. They were drawn to his message, so they sought Jesus out. Even the Pharisees and the scribes had come to Jesus, if only to criticize him for the bad company he was keeping. No, Jesus is not lost, and is there for the finding.


Click on the image to hear this story on YouTube

I am reminded here of a very familiar church story called “The Rabbi’s Gift.” Perhaps you’ve heard this story, of a 15th century monastery that was dying. There were only five monks left in this monastery, and they were all very old. So they sought the advice of a famous rabbi about what to do. The rabbi told the Abbot of the dying monastery that THE One, the Messiah, was among them. And as the five aged monks began to wonder who among them was THE Messiah, they began to treat each other and their monastery with more love and respect. Full truth be told, the five each began to act more like the Messiah.

One day a few pilgrims visited this monastery. Actually, they had come to the wrong place by mistake. But they were very impressed with the love and care with which the monks treated each other and the care lavished on their monastery. So they told others, and the monastery began to thrive again. The monks never figured out which one of them was THE One, the Messiah. Instead, they treated everyone near and far as “the one,” the one who was lost and who needed an introduction to The One, the Messiah who could free them from the prison of their lives.

I like this story of The Rabbi’s Gift because in it the monks each searched for the one who was lost, each shared THE One who is Jesus. Today we might expect that only the shepherd would leave the flock and go in search of the one sheep who is lost. However, we forget that we are all shepherds, we are each to care for the sheep, and every one of us needs to search for and to bring home lost sheep.

In Jesus’ story today there is no sheep-fold. The one who had one-hundred sheep left 99 of them in the wilderness to go after the one who was lost. When found, the sheep’s owner carried that one home on his shoulders, rejoicing, and then held a party to rejoice that the lost sheep had been found. The ninety-nine righteous sheep in the wilderness knew the shepherd, knew the way home, and came there by themselves. Presumably these ninety-nine sheep joined in the rejoicing over their one lost mate who had been found.

Sometimes, though, we sheep play games with the shepherd. We wonder if we are more important to the shepherd than the other sheep. So we go out in the wilderness, go away from the rest of the flock, and hide, to see if someone notices that we are missing, to see if anyone comes looking for us.

This is what Cecil The Lost Sheep is doing on today’s bulletin cover—at least on the front of the eight o’clock bulletin cover. Cecil has found a ledge to park himself on and is waiting for the shepherd to come find him. And there is the shepherd, looking greatly happy to have found Cecil.

Look around you. Do you notice who isn’t here today, who hasn’t been here among the flock for awhile? Or do you think that is my responsibility?

I knew a woman (may she rest in peace) who told me that she had attended a very large church for a long time and had sat in the same seat each week. But this woman felt that no one in her flock even knew her name. So she stepped attending church. No one called her. No one wrote her. No one came looking for her. Like Cecil the Lost Sheep on the front of some of our bulletins today, this woman hid in the wilderness. But Jesus found her, she said, and Jesus told her to get back to church because her mission was to find the one who wasn’t there, the one who was lost. In this way, she stopped being the one who was lost and became a shepherd. I am sure that Jesus, in the presence of God and the angels, rejoiced over this woman’s return home.

I’ve been telling you stories this morning, stories about finding the one who is lost. I’ve been telling you stories about connecting lost ones to THE One, the Messiah, who surely is among us here at Church of the Resurrection.

Here’s one last story for you. Each and every one of us is “the one,” the one who at one time was lost and who has been united with THE One. We each are the one for whom THE One, the Messiah, went looking, having left behind all the other sheep. And when THE One found you, he called together all the saints and angels and had a huge party because we had been found.

Who is the one whom will you find?

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