Lost and found

The BBC historical programmes often feature lost cities, lost civilisations and lost treasures, with all the drama and excitement of rediscovering the glories of bygone ages. The changing course of rivers as essential sources of water for life, transport and agriculture, rendered whole areas unsuitable for functional living. Conquering armies laid waste the splendour of palaces, and climate change brought famine and dust to once thriving populations. Treasures lie on the sea bed, or even, like King John’s gold, somewhere under the Fenlands. Finding these ancestral legacies illuminates the journey of humanity, but we cannot resurrect lives distanced by the passage of time.

The rediscovery of a hoard of art treasures, secreted away for seventy years, has sent a ripple of delight around the world of art lovers. Beauty once lost has been found again. One of our popular newspapers still runs a Lost and Found column. Old friends seek a lost bridesmaid, a childhood friend or a colleague left behind when life moved on. The caption reads, Where are you now?’ There is a longing to restore a relationship that once flourished, whether realistic or not. Losing necessary items like keys, spectacles or a passport can be depressing and frustrating. The joy of finding them again brings a surge of relief. How very much deeper, then, are the emotions of those who experience the sudden or unexplained disappearance of a loved member of the family. The abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria, the lost air passengers of Malaysia, the ferry disaster of South Korea, the many vanished political activists around the world, or human traffic victims or run-aways all evoke an acute pain of loss and enduring sadness. Healing the heartache seems impossible without the comfort of reunion, or at least a resolution of the mystery that caused the distress of separation.

Some of the most vivid imagery to express dismay in loss and joy in finding is captured in the parables told by Jesus and recorded in the Gospels. The lost sheep is brought back to the safety of the fold by the dedication of the shepherd. The lost coin is restored to its place in the dowry headdress of the lady who diligently searched for it. These stories perfectly illustrate the emotions of longing, of inconsolable dismay during the time of loss. The moment of reunion brings a flood of happiness, so overwhelming that it must be shared with everyone around. That which has been found becomes doubly valued. The purpose of Jesus in relating these stories was to demonstrate the love of God that goes to the uttermost to redeem the lost children of his family to a relationship that will bring mutual peace and joy and communion. The beautiful verse found in John 3:16 explains it in this way.

The OBJECT of God’s love is the world of people. The EXPRESSION of God’s love is the gift of ‘his only begotten son’ as our redeemer. The RECIPIENT of God’s love is ‘Whoever believes’. The INTENTION of God’s love is that we ‘should not perish but have everlasting life’.

We hear the testimonies of those who, even in the success of life, had a deep sense of longing for inner peace. Something was missing. They describe finding faith as a healing balm for an ache in the soul, of coming home to a secure place of belonging, of finding purpose in being alive.

In July, our churches are united in providing a holiday club for our local children on the theme of LOST and FOUND. There will be great fun and games, stories, drama and videos, art and crafts, music and songs, and time for chat and refreshments. Don’t miss out! See the notices for details. See you there!

Iris Niven

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