Transparent bowtie     In 1971 Carole King wrote and sang “So Far Away” as part of her hit record Tapestry. Her song spoke to a period of US history filled with lost dreams and hopes unfulfilled. The 60s called for new possibilities of human fulfillment. We put men on the moon, but we could not stop the violence in the streets or in Southeast Asia. Ms. King’s song seems to carry some personal pain in losses of relationship in a mobile society. For example, she asks repeatedly, “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore.” Of course she confesses she is one of those displaced persons where “Traveling around sure gets me down and lonely.” She expressed a deep concern: “I sure hope the road don’t come to own me.”

On the same album, Ms. King promises to come running when “You just call out my name” in the song, “You’ve Got a Friend”. Perhaps the melancholy reality that she cannot be that friend to everyone comes through in the album’s title song, “Tapestry”. A drifting man of fortune wanders aimlessly past her and becomes part of the fabric of her life. When the man in the patch quilt-like coat comes away empty after reaching for golden fruit on a tree, he sits down on a rock and succumbs to a curse. The singer laments, “I wept to see him suffer, though I didn’t know him well.” In her sorrowful, lonely eulogy to a stranger, the singer’s tapestry of life unravels as a “figure gray and ghostly beneath a flowing beard … comes to take me back.”

Perhaps that album from 45 years ago speaks even more profoundly to our world today. The mobility of our culture now adds roughly 14% foreign born people (4.7% in 1970) to continental migration patterns of those born in the country. According to the census bureau, about 1 in 9 people move every year. “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?”

Reading through Luke 15 we see a shift in scenes from the previous chapter. Rather than eating with privileged people, the outcasts have come to Jesus. Perhaps Jesus multiplied the bread again or everyone just shared what little food they had. The “good” people complained that Jesus received and ate with sinners. Jesus told three more stories. All included lost things: a poor shepherd’s sheep, a lady’s silver coin, and a father’s son.

When the searchers located the lost ‘objects’ they called their friends for a celebration. It did not matter if the sheep knew it was lost and could not find the way home, the coin had no awareness of its lostlessness, or the son had to come to his senses and find his own way home, someone called for a celebration.

Maybe Carole King does not travel the road alone. Maybe some folks have cried for the Shepherd so long that they cannot bleat anymore. Maybe some do not even have a hope that things can be any different … lost simply describes a condition without any thought of a Searcher. Maybe some have dishonored the Father and walked, but they fear facing shame and potential rejection when they wonder if coming home is even possible. They fear reaching for the golden fruit of belonging to only be rejected and cursed one more time.

I travel quite a bit these days. When people ask where I am from, I generally answer with a reference to the last city I visited. I have to put the hotel room key envelope in my pocket or I will forget which room was mine. Fortunately each place I visit becomes a new home, a new place of celebration. Each worship service and shared meal reminds me that I belong to a really big family. The Father prepares a place to welcome us home very soon. What a celebration that will be!

Prayer

Dear Jesus,

I know some people who use to worship with us. They have experienced the wonder of healing and belonging. Perhaps the path grew difficult, the safety net broke, or they thought staying in the house meant they would miss out on so many pleasures of the world. The conditions do not matter, they all deserve a Searcher. You call and welcome all home.

I am sorry for the times when I felt the loss as something about me rather than about the one lost. In those times I searched for a while to make sure it was not my fault and to demonstrate I had done all I could. I am sorry for the times when I did not value others as much as You did. I am sorry for the times when I lost faith in Your continuous call even when the lost one has no plan to come home.

Lord, thank You for welcoming us home when we have had doubts and fears. Thank you for relentlessly looking for others. We find so much joy in celebrating returning brothers and sisters! We pray that we can see the wandering people as well as those stuck without any hope. We pray we can care for them as persons rather than just trying to ‘grow the church’. Please unstop our ears and open our eyes.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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Thank you for walking with me through Luke 15. Yes, I do have an eclectic taste in music. I hope that does not offend anyone. I have fond jazz, oldies, classics, country, hymns, and other music forms convey longings, hopes, dreams, failures, and faith. Perhaps music shares feelings of aloneness and lost hope in ways I can hear. Perhaps other art forms or parts of people’s lives help you see where the lost can be found. I look forward to hearing about your next celebration – a celebration brought on by another person being welcomed by the Father. People of all walks of life deserve our welcome and celebration. No one has to ever walk alone.

God bless,

Jim