On Saving That which Was Lost

A week and a half ago I published the following piece in the Parent News.

Last Friday, just before our Christmas Chapel of Lessons and Carols, my wife called to say she had found the cat!  Here he is, safe and sound:

In the same way, I am told, there is rejoicing in the presence of
The angels of God over one sinner who repents.

On Saving That Which Was Lost

Chip Denton, Headmaster

I spent a good bit of my weekend looking for a cat. This was hard for me, for several reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t like cats. I am willing to recognize this feline aversion as a fault in myself, but it is much easier to imagine it as a fault in cats. They are, as far as I can see, haughty, self-absorbed, and irreverent. But all God’s creatures have a place in the choir, and I am trying to expand my soul. And I am trying to do something to help my daughter and son-in-law, who are in Africa at the moment and are distraught at the news from their renters that their beloved Timothy Jones (TJ) has gone missing longer than is his wont.
So I drove around neighborhoods putting up posters with a picture of TJ.  He looks like this:
It could be worse with TJ. Imagine that he had not only gone missing, that he had not only risked injury and even death (unfortunately I haven’t been looking only for live cats lately); imagine that I couldn’t even give you a picture of TJ. What if every photo of him were blurred or distorted beyond recognition, like the rain-soaked flyer I saw this weekend, the ones that weren’t laminated, where the colors and lines had run all together. Imagine that I wanted to find TJ and all I could show you was something like this:
Maybe one of the reasons God wanted me to look for this lost cat was that he wanted me to remember what it means for God to look for lost humanity. This is, after all, why Jesus was born into this world: “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”  We often read this familiar verse (Luke 19:10) and think (correctly) of Jesus’ rescuing injured and doomed humanity from our predicament. This is a way of thinking about our “lostness” that is true, but it is really all about us. It’s a way of thinking about myself that is not that different from the cats I can’t abide: haughty, self-absorbed, and irreverent. Jesus came to get me out of this mess I’ve made.
The truth is, we are not the only ones who lost something when we got lost. Our loving God created us in his likeness (Gen. 1:27), in true righteousness and holiness, so that we could image him to the rest of creation. No other creature has this calling. Cats and dogs--no matter how adorable--are not called “God’s image.” We are. But in our primal sin we rebelled against his good purposes, and the history of the world, especially as interpreted through the Scriptures, is the history of the blurring and distorting of the image of God. “What does God look like?” is a question the creation is always asking. And the only creature in all God’s world who could give an answer has only this sad answer to give: “Not like this.”
So when God came to save his creation, he needed a true picture of humanity. He wanted to show forth to all the universe what a human being could be, should be. In a text that our seniors will read next semester in their culminating Theology class, Athanasius put it this way:
You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes obliterated through external stains. The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so was it with the All-holy Son of God. He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst, in order that he might renew mankind made after himself, and seek out his lost sheep, even as he says in the Gospel: “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Of all the things our students will learn while they are here at Trinity, nothing is more important than this. Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:1). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). If students leave here understanding that, they will have learned two invaluable lessons: First, they will see into the heart of God and his purposes in the world and history; and, second, they will have a divine touchstone against which to measure every idea, every notion, every person they meet for the rest of their lives. The Jesus of the Gospels is the picture of God they can come back to over and over again. This is the heart and soul of a Christian education.  


Popular Posts