Luke 15 is devoted to three parables. All of these parables talk about lost things, a sheep, a coin, and a son, the prodigal son. When the lost thing was found, there was a great celebration. What was lost was now found. That was reason for celebration.
Let’s look at a modern true story about a lost thing.
There was once a man with a black hat. Okay, he had many hats. It was his fashion statement, and a joke on the old adage about a man who wears many hats being a man who has many different jobs or responsibilities. This stems from olden times when many jobs were identified by the hat being worn.
This man’s black hat was special, however. It had a headband made of brightly colored beads in a pattern designed by a Native American tribe. Of all of the different hats that the man wore, this hat was the only hat for which he got compliments. This made the man like this hat above the rest. It was a wide brim hat, so it kept the sun off his face. (He had remembered his grandfather’s words, “Wear a hat mowing the lawn. The doctors say that I wouldn’t be dying of cancer if I’d worn a hat.”) The hat was comfortable and fit perfectly. It could be pulled down tighter in strong winds. It wasn’t too dressy, so it couldn’t be worn in all situations. Yet, it was a fine hat.
One day, the man and his wife were leaving Texas to return to Mississippi to stay with their son. His wife’s mother had just passed away and in the week between the death and the memorial service, they had decided to stay with their son, instead of staying in a motel. They had to pick up their son anyway, for the son and his wife had been asked to provide music for the memorial service.
As the man started to pack the minivan, it started to rain. When the rain got heavier, as it can along the Gulf Coast, he tossed the treasured hat onto the bench seat in the back of the van where it would be safe. He didn’t want it to be damaged in heavy rain. He’d packed another black hat for bad weather. His other hat was nondescript in shape. It was wide brimmed, but nothing fancy. There was no headband other than a black band made of the same wool as the rest of the hat. Yet, its utility was that it was great in rain, snow, ice, wind, etc. It was the man’s bad weather hat.
By the time he had packed the van, he was drenched in water. He could not have been more wet if he were resting in a filled bathtub, but his treasured hat was dry on the back seat of the van. His wife, who had stayed inside during the packing, used her umbrella and arrived in the passenger’s seat perfectly dry. She didn’t mind when her husband turned on the heat. Driving was slow at first due to the poor visibility as the rain came down in great torrents.
When they unpacked the van ten hours later, the man left the hat on the back seat. He wouldn’t need it until the return trip to Texas. Yet, as everyone packed into the van a couple of days later to go one place and then another, one of his grandchildren must have taken the hat inside and placed it on a table. The hat was placed upside down, so the headband was not visible. Other things were placed on top of the hat and the hat eventually slipped off the table and was suspended between the edge of the table and the clever arrangement of toy bins in the den. The key was that the hat was neither on the table or the floor in a dark corner of the room.
A few days passed and they were getting ready to pack for the return trip to Texas. The man started looking for his hat in the van. It wasn’t there. He started looking inside his son’s apartment with no success. He mentioned the lost hat to the family. They all started looking, even the grandchildren, who were 8, 4, and 2 years old. They knew from past experience that the man could get very irritable when something was lost.
The man did not get irritable. But the hat was not found either. They returned to Texas. He wore the drab, nondescript black bad-weather hat to the memorial service. They returned to Mississippi. After resting for a day, the man and his wife packed the van to return to their home further north, a two day journey. His daughter-in-law lamented that the hat had been lost.
The man said that the family had just lost a beloved mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. The hat was just a thing. The loss of the hat had taught him that possessions in this world were more trouble than they were worth. In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus warns us against earthly treasures. He tells us that we should store up treasures in heaven. After everything was packed, the man saw the table. It was the coffee table that should have been in front of the couch, but it had been moved so that the air mattress could be used for guests. The man lifted the table and placed it back where it belonged. His son and daughter-in-law protested that he was going to hurt himself, but he wanted to leave the apartment as he had found it. When he moved the table, the mess that was wedged behind fell on the floor.
He reached down to clean up the shopping bags, toys, energy drinks, and other things, and there was the hat. Everyone cheered. Yet, the man simply smiled and thanked God for a heavenly blessing, the blessing of spiritual growth and stronger faith. He thought of how the shepherd, the woman, and the father of Luke 15 celebrated the return of the lost things. That would have to wait until after the two day drive, but he’d praise God for the return of the lost thing that he’d resolved was lost forever. He would praise God for all of the people who were not lost and gone forever. And he would thank God that when he died, he would leave the black hat behind and prepare his head for whatever headgear God had in mind for him.