Rev'd Philip Heak
Whenever I’m in an airport luggage hall I worry about lost baggage – was it left behind, did it arrive from another destination. I’m always slightly relieved truth be told that my bags arrived, unlike those ones …..
I’m sure someone can tell me, but what happens to that lost baggage? Is it left there until someone eventually coming back into Dublin sees it? Is it moved on by the carrier and reunited with a joyous owner? Is the case and contents auctioned off for charity ……. Or maybe some of it just gets left behind ….
There are so many areas in our lives that we can feel lost.
Where do you feel lost? Is it when we encounter a new situation where everything is unknown? Is it as you stare at a computer screen not knowing whether the new fangled technology will gobble you up.
Or maybe it’s the newest mobile phone, which promises to do everything including keeping track of your washing up liquid, but you cant work out for the life of you how to make a call on it or save a contact!!
Of course, emotionally we can feel lost as well. That is the serious point. Many years ago, when I was a child, I remember being lost at M&S. I still remember the feeling of panic when I realised that I could not see my parents. In truth they were on the other side of the clothes rail. That was one time when I knew I was lost.
Another time, I didn’t realise. I was at the Lion park and was quite happily wandering around in the reptile area. The bus left without me and I hadn’t a clue until later one of the assistants came and asked me if I was ok. The story didn’t end there. Turned out that the youth camp bosses, didn’t realise I wasn’t there until they got the phone call from the lion park. It worked out well however because that night I had hot chocolate made with real milk, whereas everyone else had theirs made with water.
So there are times when we are lost, and know it. And times when we are lost but don’t know it.
There is however one thing, that both knowing that we are lost and not knowing that we are lost hold in common. Whenever we are found, the joy is there.
People who have been set free from an addiction, often talk of how they never realised how enslaved they were until they were able to give up. People who have been in chronic pain, and have had some sort of procedure to lessen the pain, often talk of how liberated they feel.
There is a great joy in being found.
When Jesus talks of the necessity of cutting our hands off if it cause it to sin, he is not talking literally. Hes making a point that if we have something in our life that is keeping us from a closer relationship with God, we should cut it out. Some of you may have heard of Mari Quando. She is a house organiser and her mantra is that is something no longer brings you joy – recycle or repurpose it.
Jesus is more than a Marie Quando but the point is that true joy is only to be found in a close relationship with God. If there is something in your life that threatens that relationship with God then cut it out.
The joy is echoed in the next hymn we will sing. John Newton was the author of “Amazing Grace”. Perhaps to better understand the hymn and the joy of being found, we can look at who he was.
Very few people know the real life story of John Newton, who was born in 1725 and died in 1807. He could best be described as a Naval deserter from “Her Majesty’s Navy”, an atheist, a slave trader, stubborn, very disobedient, with a vicious temper. His mother, who was a deeply religious woman, died when he was seven years old and he was sent to a private boarding school. (He was kicked out of this school.)
John’s father was a sea captain. He joined his father on his ship at a very young age, learning navigation, sails, and winds. He spent five years on this ship. He later served on many boats, including the Royal Navy (which kicked him out), trade ships and slave trade ships.
John had many harrowing escapes while at sea. He also had many positive signs and at the last minute his life was spared. However, it was on the slave ship “Greyhound” that he had his greatest awakening. Heading back to England, it ran into a vicious storm that really battered the ship and the weary crew. They fought hard to keep the ship together. The supplies were very low and they wondered if they could survive another day.
Finally, they thought they spotted land, only to realize that it was a mirage. John asked God to have mercy on them as they were nearly out of all food and water.
Finally, they saw land and it was Northern Ireland. They got a great reception from the people. After examining the boat, the carpenters and shipbuilders stated the boat would not have survived another day. The “Greyhound” had not been heard from for 18 months and was assumed lost at sea. Try to imagine being on a small boat, no radio, no one to help you but God.
Because of the grace that changed John’s life, he made six attempts to be ordained a minister. Finally, at the age of 39, he became a parson. He wrote a number of hymns, and his real life experiences are reflected in “Amazing Grace”.