Imagine the scene. You drive into church, ready to open the doors for the toddle group, and as you turn the corner you meet two teenagers, stood in the middle of the car park, just standing there looking at their phones. Maybe a few months ago you’d have thought they were either looking for a Geocache, or on a desperate search for a 4G signal. In recent days it seems we can explain anyone being out of place by putting it down to Pokemon Go!
I’ve been amazed at how quickly the game has taken off in the UK, and also at the lengths of perseverance and effort people have gone to in order to find the next Pokemon. You’ll probably have heard of the group of teenage boys who got stuck in an underground cave network while searching for Pokemon! I’m glad they were brought back up top in one piece!
The idea of looking and searching is something which we’re familiar with, and it’s a theme which comes across really clearly in the Bible. I think one of the most comforting words in the Bible can be found in this Proverb, were we clearly see that if we look for God, we will find him:
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”
Proverbs 8:17 (RSV)
I also like the parables of looking and searching which we can read in Luke 15. There we find three stories of things which need finding.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? Luke 15:4 (RSV)
The parable of the Lost Sheep is a story about a sheep which has become separated from the flock. It’s not really about a sheep, it’s about you and I. I think this parable could be about people being separated from their family, their church or their community; they find themselves isolated and on their own. It reminds us that it’s important to look for people who have become separated from their community. On a practical level it encourages us to get out there, make connections with the lonely and isolated, and help them find their way back others. I suppose on its deepest level the real message is about people who have become lost from God, how we should help them find their way back, and how God works to find those who have lost sight of him.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? Luke 15:8 (RSV)
The parable of the Lost Coin is a short but powerful parable about a woman who looses a coin in her home. It is a story which reminds us that someone can be lost even though they remain within the family, church, or community; you can be lonely within a crowd. There are two things which I find moving about the actions of the woman. Firstly that she knew that she’s lost a coin in the first place. This might seem obvious, but it shows she was paying attention and she knew how many she had. I suppose this reminds me that it’s important to pay attention to people, and make sure that they’re alright. You may see them around, they keep turning up to church, or you may see them each morning at the school gates, but you won’t know if they’re ‘lost’ unless you really take the time to know them in the first place, and then you will know when they’re not quite right.
The second thing which I find inspiring about the woman is the amazing effort she went to in finding the coin. She sweeps the whole house until she found it, and I suppose the message to remember is about the diligence required to find people who are lost; the time it takes, the care and attention it needs. You keep on looking because you know it’ll be worth it in the end.
The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25-32 (RSV)
The fascinating thing about the last parable in Luke 15 is that both brothers are lost. We often focus on the prodigal son who goes off to waste his money in a reckless way, only to return back to his family. It’s the older brother who’s also lost, but doesn’t seem to know it. Instead of being happy that his brother has returned, he responds with anger; he was lost within himself and within the family.
I suppose the really comforting thing to remember is that God wants us to find him, and while it may be difficult from time to time, we have each other and his Bible to help us on our search.
I’m not sure I’m ready for Pokemon Go just yet! No doubt Pikachu will be pleased to see me if I ever find him, and while I’m not doubting that he is pretty cute I’m afraid that the reward he will give me is nothing in comparison with the
reward God gives those who search for him.
“For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6 (RSV)
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (RSV)