Romans 9:16: “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Listening to the song “House of the Rising Sun” we get a little glimpse of the prostitutes’ plight. Jesus was well aware of their situation. Religious leaders of His time considered people who lived on the fringes of society a lost cause while Jesus sought them out. He sat down with prostitutes and held conversations with outcasts. As a result Jesus was invited to their homes and people clung to every word He said. He told them parables, beautiful little short stories of hope and mercy. The overriding theme of His tales: “Lost & Found”.

Perhaps we have read the Lord’s parables of “The Lost & Found Sheep”“The Lost & Found Coin”, and “The Lost & Found Son”.

In the first story we read about a straying sheep which gets separated from the rest of the flock. When the owner realizes that one of his sheep is missing he calls a search party. Once the lost animal was spotted, he is so relieved that he puts it on his shoulders to carry it back home. Overjoyed he celebrates with his friends and neighbors.

In the second story the main character is a woman who owns ten silver coins. One of them gets lost. She proceeds to comb through the whole house until she finds that coin. When she finally discovers it, she is so happy that she lets everybody know.

In the first two stories the object did not get lost by choice. The owners felt responsible and were compelled to do everything in their power to restore the lost object. – Let’s pause here for a minute and think of unspeakable tragedies where people are born into slavery, sold into prostitution against their will, violated, drugged and raped, without a home, without identity. Lost coins are unidentified objects dropped into the dark corners of this world and seemingly forgotten, but in all reality the Owner of the universe is reaching out day and night to get a hold of these precious coins. And like the characters in Jesus’s story, God is not known to give up easily.

In the third story we hear about two lost sons. The wayward son wants to get out and spend all his cashed inheritance while his brother stays at home but seems to begrudge his life situation. Maybe he is even envious of his brother. Both sons are lost in the sense that they are not with their father. One is geographically absent; the other one’s heart is absent. In the end the wayward son returns home after he had squandered all of his wealth. His brother does not want any mercy for him and also doesn’t seem to think that he himself is in need of mercy.

The common theme of the Lord’s Lost & Found Narratives is His astonishing compassion. Mercy is 100 percent His doing; it is not triggered by rituals or initiated by anything we accomplish. The Lord is merciful – that’s who He is. And only through His mercies can we be found.

“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl,
and me, O God, for one.” 
(Georgia Turner and Bert Martin)

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