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Sunday, November 12, 2006

searchlight church

Last week we talked about what it means for us to be a "lighthouse church" and "lighthouse Christians." We are to be obedient, involved, and prepared with the good news of Jesus Christ. This week we will look at a second picture of what it means to be faithful Christians and a faithful church: God wants us to be "searchlight Christians" and a "searchlight church." We will see that not only is our God a searching God, not only did Jesus come to seek and save the lost, but all of Heaven rejoices when a lost one is found. God's people and God's church are to join in this mission to the world and in celebration when God accomplishes His salvation in a human life.

What Does a Searchlight Do?

Before we look at our passage, let's think for just a moment about what a searchlight does. For example, it is used in the dark. It is used to find something or someone (or at least look!). It shows the way: if you are searching in the dark, you don't want to become a casualty yourself. The light from the searchlight pierces the shadow – pressing through ahead of you to the nooks and crannies that are hard to reach. The purpose of a searchlight is just what the name implies – to go and find in the dark. A searchlight can be a flashlight in the hands of one searching; it can be the floodlight on a helicopter or search-and-rescue vehicle. It is not dissimilar to a lighthouse – but it is mobile or at least "on the lookout" while a lighthouse is fixed as a point of reference.

So we are to be with the light of Jesus Christ. We are to be a lighthouse – a fixed point of reference welcoming all who see us into the sanctuary of the presence of and relationship with God. But we are also to be a searchlight - getting up and going out into the dark places of life, our community, and people's lives to share the light and life of Jesus.

Let's see what Jesus had to say about it.

Jesus as a Searchlight

We talked a few weeks ago about the grumbling over the company Jesus was keeping. Talking and hanging out with sinners and tax collectors didn't look good in the eyes of some. That was when Jesus said that the healthy do not need a doctor - but the sick do. He came to seek and save the lost.

In today's text we have the first two of three short stories Jesus told to illustrate his (and God's) perspective on those who are lost. I use the word "lost" because that's the word Jesus uses. These "lost" are indeed sinners, just like we are! We are just "found sinners" - found by God. Jesus is talking about "lost sinners" - those who are just like you and me, but who do not know God and who are lost with respect to God.

He tells two stories. In the first, a shepherd who has 100 sheep leaves the 99 to go look for one that is lost. Jesus was speaking to people who knew about sheep and shepherds. This was a real-life example that made sense. If it doesn't connect with you, don't worry, the next one is about losing money!

Let me just highlight a few things in this first story:

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not LEAVE the ninety-nine and GO AFTER the one which is lost... (Luke 15: 4)

One of the qualities of being a searchlight Christian is mobility - a willingness to get up and get out, to "leave and go after" like the shepherd in the story. This is, in fact, what God did! Jesus left heaven to come to earth to go after us - the ones lost to God because of human sin.

Let's keep going. He leaves and goes after the one - UNTIL HE FINDS IT. When he has found it, he LAYS IT ON HIS SHOULDERS... (vv. 4-5).

A second quality of being a searchlight Christian is caring persistence. We are to keep getting up and going out because we care about those who would never wander in here on their own. And we don't give up easily. One flyer in the mailbox is neither caring nor persistent. We are to search and search until we find those God wants us to find - then caringly show them the compassion and love of God, tending to their hurts and wounds if necessary.

Let's look at the second story for a moment. In it, a woman loses one of ten silver coins. I'm sure you remember losing something important as a child. In our case, the new dog has made off with several of the girls' possessions: dolls, pencils, and more. You've probably also had the experience of leaving a purse or wallet somewhere. Well the woman in the story loses one silver coin of ten. And what does she do?

Doesn't she LIGHT A LAMP and SWEEP the house and SEARCH CAREFULLY?

Another quality of being a searchlight Christian is permeability. By that I mean something a little different than persistence. I'm trying to describe the thoroughness with which we search. A quick once-over of the house is unlikely to turn up the missing coin, though we might try that once in hopes of an easy discovery. She had to turn up the light, sweep all the floors, and probably get on her hands and knees. As we think about being "searchlight Christians" in our near-neighborhood, we will have to permeate the neighborhood - not just give it a once-over.

Notice, too, that the woman was also persistent. She kept looking until she found the coin.

Let's take those three qualities (mobility, permeability, and persistence) then, and ask what is the quality of our "searchlight" as a church and as individual Christians.

"What is the Quality" posts: Mobility

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