Have you ever felt like you were lost? Think way back, to when you were just a child. Did you ever go somewhere unfamiliar and wander off from your parents, distracted by something that caught your eye, then when you looked up you couldn’t find your parents? If you can recall such an experience, do you remember how it felt to be lost? Growing up in Toronto, I can remember being downtown shopping with my mom. I was terrifed of becoming lost. I remember clinging to the hem of my mom’s skirt so that I wouldn’t lose her, but my brother would get a few aisles away and I would start freaking out, pulling on my mother’s skirt and begging her to retrieve my brother. Two winters ago my daughter and her husband went skating at the outdoor rink at Covent Garden Market in downtown London. As they were preparing to leave, she was helping their daughter and she thought that her husband was helping their son. When she looked up from taking off her daughter’s skates and her own, her husband was standing there alone. She asked where Ben was and Jeff replied, “I thought you had him”. Then frantically started calling out his name and Jeff ran into the Market asking people if they had seen a curly haired little boy with a red jacket on. His jacket was blue, but that shows you how observant some fathers can be. Finally Jeff looked up and saw his little three year old son riding up the escalator alone. The story had a happy ending, but for a few minutes, both my daughter and her husband were terrified. So the experience of getting lost and of losing someone can both be very traumatic. Mind you, Ben didn’t mind being on his own at all.
All of this is to bring us to a passage in our Scripture about losing our lives for the sake of Christ. “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it”. I just spent a few days this week with my best friend, Diane, who lives in Picton. Diane has always been a self-proclaimed atheist. She doesn’t believe in God. She doesn’t believe in an after life. I have known this about my friend forever. She wasn’t raised in a church and her parents did not share any beliefs with her. She loves nature, she is kind-hearted, she marvels at sunrises and sunsets, but she does not attribute any of this to God. Usually we avoid conversations that revolve around God so that we can respect each other’s beliefs. She is quick to tell strangers that I am a minister. She seems proud of the fact that her best friend is in ministry. But this visit, as we were having lunch together one day, our conversation turned to the meaning of life and our purpose for being here on earth. She said that she didn’t think there needed to be any purpose and that the meaning of life was simply to live it, being a good person and caring for the earth, for animals and for others. But when life here is over, that’s it. As I mentioned, we usually avoid such conversations, but we were into it, and I found myself becoming annoyed with her simplistic view of life. I also thought that of all the people I know, she should believe in miracles, because she is a living miracle, having had breast cancer and survived. I thought of all of the prayers I had said for her and I was annoyed that she couldn’t appreciate the power of those prayers. It’s the first time I have been annoyed by this attitude she has that there is no afterlife. I think of all of the funerals I have conducted and the comfort it has brought to people, being able to say with certainty that some day they will be with their beloved again. How do I know that? I know it because I believe in the promises of Jesus Christ that we will be united with God after we die. Maybe mine is the simplistic view of life. But our passage today says that God cares for every hair on our heads and that he cares for us even more than he cares for the tiny sparrows, for whom God has immense care.
I remember learning the song, “God sees the little sparrow fall” when I was in Sunday School so many years ago. I thought it was very comforting knowing that God loves me as much as God loves the little sparrows in the air. I have lived with that knowledge my whole life. I am grateful to my mother for taking me to Sunday School and making sure that I learned about the faith that had helped her throughout her life, a faith that helped her through losing her father a month before her wedding when she was only 22 years old, a faith that kept her strong while her fiance was away at war for four years, a faith that helped her endure losing two babies, a faith that withstood every trial and tribulation throughout her life. She always said that she was never alone, that God was always with her. She knew that with all of her heart and it was that same faith that enabled her to die a peaceful death, while holding my father’s hand. It is a faith that she passed on to me and to my children, and one which they are now passing on to their children.
So many people cling to life and search their whole lives to find meaning or, like my friend, deny that there is any meaning in life. But we have been told today, in the Good News of Jesus Christ, that if we lose our lives to Christ, we will find our lives. All of those times we have felt lost, are times that we have strayed from Jesus. But there is no need to feel lost, because we have been found in Christ. That is where our meaning is. That is our purpose on earth. And that is what insures that we will have eternal life, that everything we have endured here on earth isn’t meaningless. All of the people we have helped and loved and cared for, all of the prayers we have said, all of the gratitude we have shown to God for giving us this life, culminate in being found in Jesus. We need never feel lost again. We have Christ in our lives and he will bring us to God, when our life here on earth is over. We need to be afraid. We are loved, just as the sparrow is loved. Thanks be to God. Amen.