This morning I want to introduce you to my lovely flock of three sheep. First of all, there's Baa-rbara (groan, yes, and it gets worse...); next up, there's Wool-iam (groan, I did warn you!); and so there we are. Our lovely flock of three sheep. Baa-rbara, Wool-iam, and - where's Larry the Lamb? He's not in the bag. Where is he?
I think he has wandered off. He's lost. Can I have some volunteers to help me find Larry the Lamb? He must be somewhere in the church building, so I'll need you to look for him. And everyone in the pews might need to help - have a look around and see if he's in your pew.
When he's been found, then we have a celebration - a big shriek of joy! Larry was lost, but now he has been found.
Now imagine you were saving up to buy something. You were saving up all your pocket money, all your Christmas money, all your birthday money. What is it you would be saving for? (Some suggestions - football boots, laptop etc). You counted the money every week, and finally, the day came when you had all the money, you were ready to go and buy whatever it is you were saving for, and you counted it one last time, and there was a pound coin missing!
What would you need to do before you could buy your special item? You would have to go and look for the lost coin, until you found it. How happy would you be when you found it, and could go and buy what you were wanting?
Those examples are a bit like the stories Jesus tells in our reading today. But Jesus wasn't just talking about lost sheep and lost coins. He's teaching us about what God is like.
At the start of the reading, we heard about some people who were not very happy. You see, the tax collectors and 'sinners' were coming to Jesus, listening to him, spending time with him. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law didn't like it. They thought they were the good people, the only people Jesus should be with. They looked down on everyone else, especially those bad people.
Jesus tells these two stories to show us what God is like - he says that God is a bit like the shepherd losing a sheep; like a woman losing a coin. If you would look for a lost sheep to bring it back; if you would look for a lost coin, then God will also go looking for lost people, to bring them back.
This is the good news - that even though all of us have gone astray, we've wandered away from God doing our own thing - Jesus came into the world to find us and to bring us back. Jesus says in Luke 19:10 'The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.' Jesus came to bring us back to God.
Now if you were to find the lost sheep, how would you react? The man in the story throws a party, he celebrates. The woman in the story also throws a party, she celebrates. It's the same with God - he has a party when one of us returns to him. What a party that will be!
My aim is that every one of us in the building will come back to God, because of what Jesus has done for us, in coming to find us who are lost, and to bring us back to God. Are you lost, or found?
This sermon was preached at the Family Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 18th September 2011.