63-81 Pelham Street, South Kensington, London, is world famous for being the home of London Transport’s Lost Property Office. Established in 1933, it is where all the lost items found on, or in any of London’s transportation systems – underground trains, buses, taxis, etc, are placed to be reclaimed. Every year between 150,000 and 200,000 items are found and turned in to the LPO, where officials attempt to locate owners and return their lost items. Every year people lose wheelchairs, false teeth, watches, backpacks, umbrellas, smartphones, and an estimated 38,000 books, 29,000 bags and 28,000 pieces of clothing.
I don’t know if you have ever lost something and then found it again, but I do know how many stories have shaped my life on the subject of ‘Lost and Found’. As a child I used to love watching ‘Bagpuss’ and his toy friends, who lived in a shop, owned by a little girl called Emily. Each week Emily would bring to the shop something that had been lost and needed mending. Bagpuss and his friends would lovingly do so, and then the item would go on display in the shop window, for the owner to claim. When a little older, I enjoyed stories about ‘Paddington Bear’. Found by the Brown family in Paddington Station, he came from Peru, wearing a hat and duffle coat, with a label tied on him, saying, ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’ And as a teenager I loved watching all the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies, where adventuring archaeologist, Indiana Jones, would seek some lost treasure – often to learn by the end of the film that the most precious things are the people who will stand beside you.
During the past year, this idea of ‘lost and found’, has come into my thinking time and again. Many people have often spoken to me about a year that has been ‘lost’, due to the Covid 19 pandemic – and I can understand why. I do not underestimate the precious treasures people have lost – be that family members, friends, jobs, or a sense of security and purpose. But some people have also spoken to me about what they have found. Beyond a discovery of online communication technologies, many have identified a new sense of what, or who, is of real value. A new understanding of priorities in life. A better appreciation of what can easily be taken for granted – powerfully expressed as much as anything, through pictures of rainbows, or clapping in our streets. In twelve months, these things and more, have been found.
And then I come to this time called ‘Easter’. The most important time of the year for Christians everywhere. And suddenly all of this makes sense to me. Like the dawn on Easter morning, it dawns on me why Easter resonates so much in my heart, and the hearts of millions around the world, and across the millennia.
Easter is the greatest Lost and Found story ever told!
On that first Easter morning we are told that the women go to the tomb, desperately sad – for they had lost their teacher and friend – Jesus. Jesus, who on Good Friday, lost everything – his freedom, his followers, his clothes, even his life – when he died on the Cross. But that is not the end of the story. Instead it ends with what was found. A miracle. Discovery of a love that is stronger than death. That Jesus is Risen! – ‘Alleluia!’, they cried, and so do we. Things were not the same – they could not be – because of the experience they had all gone through, during what we now call, ‘Holy Week’. Even the Risen Jesus carried the scars of the Cross on his body. They had all changed, and so, perhaps, have we. But we are here now – and it is Easter. Alleluia!
The reason that Christians are often invited to renew their Baptismal promises on Easter Day, is to act as a reminder that today really can be the first day of the rest of our lives. On that first Easter Day, things were never the same again. Yes, things had been lost, and we will always remember that. But what we celebrate is what had been found, which is still expressed in just three little words: ‘Christ is Risen!’ And in those three words I understand who I am. I am lost and found. That is how God sees me. That is how God sees all of us. And that is why ‘Loss’ in all it’s forms, is never the last word. The past year of the pandemic has made that clear to me. Indeed, if I could express all the words I have shared with you in just one word – it would look and sound like this…
Like Paddington Bear, I imagine myself with a label tied to me. But on that label is written, just one word: ‘Found.’ What more can I say? What more can you?