We don’t change the message.  The message changes us.

            Come as you are.  But you won’t leave as you were.

            The greatest message ever heard came from an empty tomb.

            So what do you think?  We are looking for new messages to put on our church sign.  “Join us for worship” is fine, along with the service times.  Lisa and I decided on that after VBS.  But we were thinking more along the lines of the service or sermon theme?  You know, what the message from God’s Word this week to get the folks of this neighborhood’s attention.  How about “Sinners welcome here?”  “Jesus Sinners Does Receive?”  “Drunks welcome here.”  Drug addicts Welcome here.”  Liars and Cheaters.  “Prostitutes are welcome here.”

            Or maybe “Love for the Lost” would be good.  But isn’t that what all those other messages are about?  And regarding “Love for the Lost”, are we talking about God’s Love for the lost or ours?

            You know what started all this talk about the land of the lost, don't you?  "Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him."  My oh my.  The beauty of these words.  This one verse.  Tax collectors and 'sinners' were ALL gathering around to hear him!  Sinners.  Drunks.  Thieves.  Prostitutes.  Why?  To hear him!  Why?  Because they could!  Why?  Because Jesus welcomed them, wanted them, loved them with his words and actions.  What love!  What kindness!  What forgiveness!

            "But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"  Talk about a contrast.  "This one welcomes sinners!  "This one!" And you and I know and believe who "this one" is.  This one, God's Son, the Holy One of God, welcomes sinners and even more EATS with them!  They know Jesus welcomes sinners.  They believe Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them and it means nothing to them!  It melts your heart and some days brings you to tears and it means nothing to them!

            So Jesus told them this parable: Which one of you, if you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that was lost until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls together his friends and his neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’

            He could not go looking fast enough.  "It's just 1 out of 100", you say.  But it was HIS sheep.  And it was lost! One dumb, stupid, smelly sheep that got itself in trouble and was lost.  And He doesn’t care!  He doesn't care that the sheep should have known better.  He doesn’t care that it’s just one!  It’s ONE of HIS Sheep and that is all that matters.  He goes and looks and searches and doesn’t return until he finds it and when he does he tells his neighbors and friends--I found my lost sheep!

            “Or what woman who has ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, would not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the lost coin.’

            And she couldn't start her search soon enough!  "It's just 1 out of 10" you say.  But it was HERS!  And it’s LOST!  She lights a lamp!  She sweeps the house and doesn’t stop searching until she finds it!  And when she finds it she tells her friends “Rejoice with me!  I found my lost coin!”

            And what does Jesus say to these muttering self-righteous, lost-loathing Pharisees?  I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent…There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Did you hear that?  It’s not the angels rejoicing--although I am sure they do.  Who is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents?  God!  God rejoices in heaven over a sinner who repents!  There is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.  There is rejoicing in heaven when the lost is found!

            And that rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents begins with you and me. This is your life story!  This is mine!  We are like the lost coin because lost we came into this world and that is the way we would have stayed unless someone found us.  We are lost like that sheep because so often we have and do stray away from the loving hand our shepherd and the security of his flock–thinking we don’t need him and don’t need other fellow Christians and will be just fine on our own.  The lost coin was not “fine”.  It was lost and useless.  And the lost sheep was not “fine” on its own–and neither are we.

            You want to make the angels sing?  You want to bring joy to Jesus?  Then never stop seeing yourself as one who is by nature a lost coin or lost sheep!  Never see yourself as one who doesn’t need to repent!  And always be one that wants to be the one Jesus is seeking!  I want to be the one that Jesus searches for!  I want to be the one that Jesus picks up and puts on his shoulders!  I want to be the one who gives Jesus joy and makes the angels sing!

            And you did!  All of you did tonight/this morning!  Didn’t you hear it?  “Holy and merciful Father…”  Remember?  And you couldn’t see it but your Father was there in heaven and was listening intently with a smile, and if he said anything it was “Yes, my child, I am your Father and I am listening.”  “Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful…I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words and actions…But I am truly sorry for my sins.”

            And what did He do?  You couldn’t see Him or hear Him.  But I can assure you He didn’t say: “Well, you made your bed, you can lie in it!”  “You should have listened to me!  You should have known better!”  No.  He rejoiced over you!  Your sorrow over sins made him glad.  And why?  Why does he rejoice in you confessing all that is wrong with you?  So He can remind you of what’s all right with Jesus!  And He wasn’t just all right--he was perfect.  And He was perfect for you.  And in his perfect love He forgives you and gives you his perfect love and righteousness.  He loves you, your Shepherd who laid down his life on a cross for you, one of his sheep.  “But I am just one sheep!”  You’re right.  But YOU are one of HIS sheep!  And that’s all that matters.

            You want to make the angels sing?  You want to bring joy to Jesus?  Be a searcher for your Savior.  Leave the 99 to go and search for just one.  Search frantically for those who are lost and do not stop until we find them and bring them back home.  This is our mission from our Savior.  And this church is His rescue mission here in West Melbourne.  And our Welcome Home Sunday--you here about that?  Every single member of New Hope here for services Sunday October 27?  Do you know someone who has been away from home for a while?  You want to make the angels sing?  Go searching!  Make a call!

Brothers and sisters--don’t worry.  We are not going to put in big letters “Adulterers and Swindlers Are Welcome Here” on the church sign.  You know why?  That’s too easy.  Let’s not just put that love in letters.  Let’s show it.  Let’s live it.  Let’s love the lost.  Let’s look for the lost!  Let’s make the heavens rejoice!  Let’s make the angels sing!  Let’s give Jesus joy!  Amen?


Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net