Today was Rally Day at church and it was so wonderful to have everyone back! We have been struggling a lot with sports/dance/activities on Sundays (something I’d love to blog about eventually, but I haven’t fully wrapped my own head around it yet), so we didn’t have as big of a crowd as we have had in year’s past, but the spirit was strong and beautiful and grace-filled.
Here is my sermon!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
September 11, 2016
To Be Drawn Back In
When I was putting together the bulletin for this week’s worship service, I really wanted to somehow incorporate the scripture we would be reading – particularly the Parable of the Lost Sheep – into our time of community confession. So on Tuesday afternoon, I was scribbling down some notes and wrote:
Fallen out of routine
Compare to sheep, God brings us back
Without thinking, I turned to my computer and mindlessly typed:
But just as the sheep was found and brought home again, so, too, are we drawn back.
I stopped for a moment; I read what I had written, sat back in my chair and said out loud the words, “drawn back”.
Then I pushed away from my desk and said, “Well there’s my sermon.”
This morning we read a scripture that is fairly well known: The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin. These parables were Jesus’ response to criticism he had been receiving about the unusually radical hospitality he practiced.
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
Religious insiders did not like the fact that Jesus welcomed outsiders into his midst. Jesus responded by telling these parables, essentially saying, in no uncertain terms, that – even if someone is a sinner, even if someone falls away from their faith, even if someone wanders off from the church – God always rejoices when that one who was lost is found again.
I have always thought about this parable in terms of how we, as a church community, can model our lives and our journeys to be like Jesus; how we can seek out the one who is lost. But as I thought about it this week – and I thought about all the back to school pictures I was seeing on Facebook, the preparations we were doing at the church for Rally Day and the subtle nervousness that always comes with a new program year – I started to wonder if it was possible that Jesus was not just speaking to us, but referring to us as well; if we were, in some way, the lost sheep that needed to be found.
We are reminded through this parable that God never gives up on us. We can be angry with God, distracted by other things or not engaged in our faith – and God will not give up on us. There are no lost causes in this world; living on this side of the resurrection means holding onto the hope that redemption is always possible. It does not matter if we fall away from the church or our faith or God, God never turns away from us.
The whole point of this parable is that, if one wanders off or is lost, it does not matter how many are left or may still be there; we should still search for the one that is missing.
Because that is precisely what God does for us.
And even more than that – and this is what I want to talk abut today – God is the one that draws us back.
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 
God goes after the one that is lost until God finds them.
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
If someone is lost, God searches carefully until they are found.
This is what God does for us. God draws us back when, for some reason or another, we have wandered off. I think this parable is more than simply a call to action; this parable is an honest and powerful commentary on what God is already doing in our lives.
I know it is not always easy to “fit” church into your crazy and hectic lives. People often slip away from God and their faith and the church without even meaning to; they are not able to make church a commitment, because they simply are committed to too many other things.
But just know that, if this is a struggle for you, in the midst of that struggle, God is working some powerful grace within you. God is drawing you back in.
So let yourself.
Let yourself be drawn back in.
Rally Day marks the beginning of a new year for the Church School, but I think it can mark the beginning of a new season for all of us. I encourage you to use this day as an opportunity to pause; to open your eyes and your ears and your minds and your hearts to see and hear and know and feel what God is doing in your life. Let yourself be drawn back in. Let yourself be found. Let the Spirit of God wash over you and see how you can emerge refreshed, restored and strengthened for a new season.
To be honest, I have been a little bit anxious coming into this new program year. Last spring, I felt our community struggling. Families were stretched thin with their commitments to sports, dance and school activities. People were burned out at their jobs and often having to work on the weekends or catch up at home on Sundays. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day or days in the week. Everyone seemed tired and stressed and overwhelmed (myself included!). Our programs were not as strong as they usually were. We fell out of our routine long before the summer even started.
But God has not given up on us. God has not given up on us, as individuals, and God has not given up on our church.
In many ways, I feel like we are the one sheep; the sheep that God is seeking out, the sheep that God is going after, the sheep that God is carefully looking for, the sheep that God will not give up on, the sheep that God will rejoice when found.
So let God draw you back in.
The fall season is upon us. It is a season of crisp air, comfort foods and earlier nights. This is a time when everyone starts to crave routine and this church – our church – can be a wonderful piece of that routine. Here you can exhale. Here you can recharge. Here you can be found. (But here you also do not have to feel guilty if you cannot do it all!)
Today is the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In many ways, that seems hard to believe; but other times it is hard to imagine what it was like to live in a pre-9/11 world. Our perspective changed that day and it continues to change every time our community, our country and our world faces a new challenge, threat or tragedy.
That is precisely why we need God’s spirit to wash over us; why we so desperately need to be drawn back into the presence of God and to our faith and to our church; why we need to be part of a community that supports us and loves us and holds us accountable.
I think one of the ways we can honor this anniversary is by recommitting ourselves to God and to being open to what God is doing in our lives. To be drawn back into the presence of God means to bear witness to grace, light and love. To be drawn back into the presence of God means to let go of our guilt if we cannot do everything we want to and just embrace our faith. To be drawn back into the presence of God means to change our expectations and just see where God takes us on this journey. To be drawn back into the presence of God means to know that we do not have to be alone and that someone is looking for us. To be drawn back into the presence of God means to hold onto the hope that a better world is possible and that we can make a positive difference in it as well.
So let yourself be drawn back in.
And God WILL rejoice.
Thanks be to God!