Losing Your Keys and Looking for God
The other day I lost my keys and I want to tell you where I didn't look to find them.
When I lost my keys, I didn't look for them in the refrigerator. When you lose your keys, do you ever look for them in the refrigerator?
When I lost my keys, I didn't look for them in the oven. When you lose your keys, do you ever look for them in the oven?
When I lost my keys, I didn't start digging under the lilac bush in the front yard to see if they were tangled within its roots. When you lose your keys, do you ever look for them by grabbing a shovel and digging holes in your front yard?
Losing your keys is a common enough experience. It’s a lot like misplacing your lunch money as a child or losing the pocketknife grandpa and grandma gave you for your tenth birthday. The minute you noticed it was missing you told your mom and she probably said something like, “Where did you have it last?” Normally I’d be critical of the silly question. After all, if I knew where I had it last then it wouldn’t be lost. But that’s not what mom meant. Mom wasn’t lazy, ironic, or stupid. She was a herald of common-sense. What she really meant was, “Where should I start looking” or “Where are we most likely to find it?”
So, when I lost my keys the other day I looked for them in the places where they're most likely to be found. I looked under the pile of mail stacked on top of our piano. I looked through the pockets of my dress pants. I looked for them on the desk in my office. I finally found them stuffed between the cushions of our couch.
My experience of looking for my lost keys is not unique. In fact, my experience is what it’s like when you look for things that aren’t lost.
Allow me to belabor the point.
Suppose you want to go fishing for bluefin tuna. You don’t travel to South Dakota to do it, because there aren’t any tuna to be found in South Dakota.
Suppose you’re looking to buy a new tool box for your dad on Father’s Day. You don’t go looking for them at Michaels or Linen-n-Things - they don’t sell tool-boxes.
Suppose it’s Tuesday and you decide you need a taco for your lunch-break. You don’t go to Subway or McDonalds because they don’t sell tacos.
When we want things, when we desire things, and when we look for things—be they lost or otherwise—we always start by looking in those places where they are most likely to be.
The same should be true of our search for God.
Scripture exhorts Christians to seek God.
“You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek’” (Psalm 27:8).
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
Seek. Seek. Seek. Seek.
So where should you seek God?
Scripture is unified in the answer to this question. Seek God in the places where he has promised to be found.
Consider this. Who looks for a baby in a feeding trough? Typically no one. But there was one time when some shepherds looked for a baby in a feeding trough, and guess what? They found him. Of all the bizarre places to look for a child, the shepherds look for the baby Son of God in a manger? Why? Because that’s where he was promised to be! “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). God was found right where he was promised to be.
On the flip side of that coin, do you remember when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in Jerusalem for three days? They finally found him in the temple. And when they chastised Jesus for worrying them sick, Jesus responds with the very first recorded words of the incarnate-Christ, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). Jesus chastises his parents and essentially says, “Really Mom and Dad? You didn’t even bother to look for me in the one place where you should have expected me to be?”
The same thing occurs at the resurrection of Jesus. The women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday, and the two men in dazzling apparel meet them at the tomb and say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he hold you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?” (Luke 24:5–7). Why were the woman chided on Easter Sunday? Because they looked for God in a place where he promised he would not be. Jesus promised them he would not be dead in a tomb.
Nothing has changed. It’s all still true today just as it was true back then. When we seek God, we should still seek Him where he’s promised to be: in Christ Jesus. And Jesus can still found in the places where he’s promised to be. To look for Jesus anywhere else than where he’s promised to be found is as foolish as looking for a taco at Subway, or a speed wrench at a Starbucks. It’s as foolish as looking for the living among the dead.
As a pastor I am well aware that there are many things about God that are mysterious. However, where one finds God is not one of those mysterious things. This is no mystery. God is found in Christ Jesus, and Christ Jesus is found in his Word, and sometimes Jesus attached his Word to physical things and accompanied it with the promise to forgive sins (we call these things ‘sacraments’).
When looking for God, you don’t need to go backpacking through Tibet, or smoke peyote while watching a sunrise from a secluded natural overlook in the American southwest. God is easy to find. He’s found in Christ Jesus, and Jesus has promised to be wherever his word is proclaimed in its truth and purity and the sacraments are administered rightly according to their institution. These things, of course, are typically found in a church building that houses a worshiping community.
Psalm 63 is instructive on this point. Verses 1–2 read, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory” (my emphasis).
In the first verse, King David speaks glowingly of desiring God. In the second verse, David tells us where he found God. God was found “in the sanctuary.” Fancy that! Sounds a lot like Jesus in Luke 2:49.
A nearly identical thing is said in the more popular Psalm of the Sons of Korah: Psalm 42. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you. O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (42:1). Where, according to Psalm 42 is God to be found? “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God” (my emphasis). Fancy that! God was found in the very house where he promised to put his name in 1 Kings 9:3, “And the Lord said to [Solomon], ‘I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever.”
The mystery of God isn’t “where do you find him?” That’s as easy as finding a taco at Taco Bell. Look for God in Christ Jesus who comes to us in his Word and sacraments. The part that’s hard to wrap your head around is that God allows himself to be found in such seemingly ordinary places and then delivers to us from there such immeasurable gifts.
So, go! Seek the Lord. You know where to look.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch. Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, SD.