A couple years ago I read in the newspaper that 33% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 couldn’t find Louisiana or Mississippi on a map of the United States. Yet these states are regularly in the news every hurricane season.
While Middle-eastern strife has been in the news for the entire lives of the respondents, 75% were unable to locate Israel on a map. And 60% of that same segment of society couldn’t find the country of Iraq despite all the many years of war on terror.
But you want to know what the saddest thing is? Most probably can’t find God either. They don’t know the way to heaven. They don’t know that Jesus has ceased the strife between us and the Father. People today are in trouble, not because they can’t identify countries of the world or master a map but because they can’t find the Savior of their life. They are lost.
We as a church are concerned about a great many things today: space for ministry, making the budget, keeping our Lutheran school going, paying for a new building, developing a positive image in the community. And all of this has its place. But consider what Jesus said in Luke 19:10 — “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Those words are the very last line of a story about a very familiar character in Luke. We all know him best as the “wee little man” who we sang about when we were in preschool. His name is Zacchaeus. And this wee little man wasn’t well liked by the religious people in Jesus’ day. He was probably rude. He was greedy—cheating them out of their hard earned money. He sided with the enemy—the liberal roman government and their progressive ways. He was a bad guy in many ways. But he was also lost.
Lost… that’s what got Jesus’ attention. Zacchaeus was lost and Jesus made a special effort to find Zacchaeus.
He calls us to do the same. Seek and save the lost! Go find Zacchaeus…
Let me end with another story that I pulled from the news many years ago (back in 2002).
Two fishing buddies, Kirk Washburn and Alton Wilhoit, were fishing just below the I-40 bridge where it crosses the Arkansas River. Suddenly they heard a deafening boom. A tugboat pushing two barges had veered off course and slammed into one of the bridge pilings with such force that a 500ft section of I-40 simply disappeared into the river. Washburn immediately called 911, but then watched helplessly as cars and semis plunged into the abyss.
What could they do as these people were dying? They yelled and waved their hands, but no one could see or hear! Finally Wilhoit remembered something – his flare gun. He aimed up and miraculously it fired. Even more miraculously it struck the windshield of the next semi about to plunge into the river. The truck slammed on the breaks, jack-knifing at the very edge of this gaping hole. Their work wasn’t finished, though. They pulled another trucker from the deadly currents of the Arkansas River and helped searchers. Fourteen lives were lost that night, but how many more would’ve perished had Washburn and Wilhoit not warned others of the danger ahead?
Jesus said, “seek and save…”
A thought to ponder:
There are a lot of homes right around our church that hear our beautiful bells ringing every day of the week, but I know many of them don’t come to church. While I don’t advocate we shoot a flare at them to get their attention, what else could we do? Do you think a simple knock on the door and an invitation might work? Other ideas?
A Prayer Starter
O LORD GOD, Give me grace and Your Holy Spirit that I may rejoice in and extol the great deeds You have done through Christ Jesus. Help me that I might speak, praise, and spread Your word that others may hear and see and know of Your goodness. Put out in me all the sinful lusts and desires that so constantly enable my bad behavior before others. I don’t want to give a bad witness to Your name, O Lord, rather I want to live a holy life not that others might think better of me, but that they may think all the better of You. Bring peace, Lord, to our community, unite our hearts with the bond of peace, that we may live with each other in peace and unity, in humility and meekness. Grant me patience with my neighbor and a willing ear to listen and quick words that are filled with Your praise. Awaken the hearts of the people of Your church that we may lift them and also holy hands up to God, calling upon Him in every trouble. And since we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Come with Your comfort to the weak, teach the wandering Your way, help the fallen, guide the erring and hold them with Your right hand. Finally, help us reach the people within earshot of our church bells and help them hear the good news. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.