“Pastor, I lost my husband.”
Helen broke down in tears in front of me as we gathered during the last hymn to walk Wayne to the hearse and to his resting place. I hugged her and said, “He’s not lost. He is with Jesus. He’s more found than ever. You will see him again.” To be sure, she needed to hear that many more times. And so do I.
“Lost” is a worse way to describe death than “death”. I avoid using this word when informing my congregation when someone dies. When my children were little, I feared losing them greatly whether it was in the grocery store, hiking, etc. I suppose I still do. I can’t imagine what it is like to have someone die and truly not know where they are or if I will ever see them again. All the joys and time together and then they are gone forever. There have been times when I’ve imagined this deeply. If indeed we are just animals alone on a spinning rock in space, what a mockery death makes of all our valiant endeavors, romantic dreams and virtuous deeds. I have spent seasons dwelling on that possibility, staring helplessly into the abyss.
Yet there are losses seemingly equal to death. A couple sitting alone on the couch after deciding to divorce, dwelling in the same space but crushingly alone. Sin separates people not just from God but from one another. It even separates a man from himself. The devil is a liar and he loves the gloomy clouds of the battlefield, confusion and chaos.
If there is a theme of scripture, it is God finding the lost. Jesus didn’t make it up. He doesn’t know how not to seek lost people! The Scripture experts who complained about Him eating with sinners should have known better. The first words God speaks after Adam and Eve hid from their Maker and each other were, “Where are you?” Then He found them! He promised them a hero, a son, who would crush that liar’s head.
Sure enough, the Son of Man comes on the scene to find humanity hiding from him; Pharisees hiding in their self-righteousness, the woman at the well hiding in her shame, Adam hiding by blaming. Everyone tries to hide from God, from what they know deep down about guilt and death. We justify our thoughts and deeds. We entertain ourselves until we fall asleep. We hide our fears with work, pleasures, trophies and comparisons. Like the largest masquerade party pretending to not be sinners, afraid, weak, and lost.
Just as God didn’t wait for Adam and Eve to come to Him, Jesus goes out to find us. He found the 11 hiding in a dark locked room. He found Mary living in the illusion that He was dead. He sends those He finds to go out and find others. We should be good at it, because we were once lost and should know where lost people hide. But sometimes we forget, like those experts in Scripture, that we were once atheists, self-justifiers, liars and the like. When we forget, we don’t look too hard, we assume some people are too far gone or that their mask is real.
It’s humiliating to admit we are lost. It’s frightening. Yet it is only the lost who are found. Only sinners are forgiven. Only the dead are raised!
Thank God our failure to find does not thwart God’s mission. Christ will not be stopped. For even when we forget, Jesus does not. He knows what is like to be lost, if only for a moment. So he knows where to find. Left alone on the cross, Jesus became lost for us. He felt His Father turn His face away and cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
He became lost so that we might be found. Removing our reason to fear God’s punishment, He welcomes sinners into His arms. And just as He rose, He promises that death will not steal us away either! So that, as St. Paul says, “Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.” Not sin or death. No matter what you are going through, you can be certain of one thing, you are not lost! You have been found.