Tony, Tony Turn Around

Session Date: 
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Bible Text: 
Luke 15:1-10


A friend once shared a prayer with me to be offered when something is lost: “Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost and must be found.”

I did some checking and discovered that the prayer comes from the Roman Catholic tradition. It is a prayer to St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things.

St Anthony was a 13th century holy man who left a wealthy family to become a poor priest. The tradition of invoking his name when in search of lost items comes from a story in his own life.

He was, as the legend goes, at a Franciscan monastery where he had a beloved psalter, a book of psalms. In a time with no printing press books were very valuable. In addition Anthony had written careful notes in the margins that he used to instruct his students. So it was a precious possession for St. Anthony.

Now there was a novice in the monastery who, after only a few weeks, had grown tired of monastic life. He had decided to make a break for it. But to add insult to injury, he ripped off St. Anthony’s psalter.

He fled through the forest. When poor St. Anthony came into his room and found his beloved psalter missing, he immediately knelt and prayed that it would be returned to him.

Now this is when the legend gets fun! After St. Anthony prayed, the novice, in the depths of the forest, is met by a demon, (here we are asked to go with the flow that a demon is the agent of God). The demon tells him he has to go back and he has to return St. Anthony’s psalter.

He does! And with that, according to the legend, St. Anthony prayed another prayer, “The sea obeys and fetters break and shattered hopes thou dost restore, While treasures lost are found again when young or old thine aid implore.”

“Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost that must be found.” Is the popular version.

Do you know anyone praying for the return of something they have lost? Perhaps a marriage, their health, maybe they lost a limb in battle, or maybe they lost their youth, or a child, or a pregnancy. There are a lot of people who have coins clattering around on the floor of their life.

I remember a woman years ago who said “I just can’t come back to church because all I can think of was that mother’s funeral was there. Every time I look at the chancel, I see all the flowers stacked on either side of the chancel.”

Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost and must be found.

There was a couple dear to both Susan and me. They had two strapping boys recently graduated from prestigious colleges. They were proud, loving parents. But a couple of years on, when the Ivy League son told them he was gay, mom embraced him and didn’t bat an eye. Dad on the other hand couldn’t grasp it. Their once close bond, and the bragging on his son that dad had done for years, ceased. A chill developed in their relationship as dad struggled with who his son was.

“Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost and must be found.”

There are a lot of things that we can lose in life. Think about life as a lost & found box, and what you may have lost in life. The list can be pretty long.

You could lose direction. You could lose your faith, or your faculties. You could lose a friend. You could lose your focus. You could lose your hair. You could lose hope, or your heart to someone. You could lose you head, or your keys, or your mind. You could lose your mobility, your perspective or your respect for someone. You could lose your spark, your teeth, your temper, your touch.

Then there are things in life, one in particular, that we don’t so much lose as let it slip away. In Luke, one of the things Jesus is afraid his disciples well let slip away, one thing Luke is afraid his church will let slip away, is the habit of persistent prayer.

“Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost and must be found.”

Throughout the gospel, Jesus slips away and he prays. He prays early in the morning. He prays at night. He prays when there is conflict, he prays in the valley and on the mountaintop. So it doesn’t have to be in the lost & found box that we place the habit of persistent prayer.

Many of us help others find lost things: parents help children find dreams, coaches help athletes find their confidence, teachers help students find direction, pastors & elders help the church find new members, therapists try to help people find purpose and new peace of mind. If you are involved in helping others find lost items, we cannot afford to leave in the lost & found box the habit of persistent prayer.

The third of Luke 15’s lost stories is the Prodigal Son. The son comes to himself. Like many of Luke’s parables, the main character comes to themselves. They realize they’re on the wrong track, turn around and head toward God. The Prodigal son is proactive. So too, the Good Shepherd gets out there using every means at his disposal and gets down in the crevice to get that sheep.

The lost coin, well not so much. What does the lost coin really have to do? Sometimes something you think you have lost forever comes looking for you, not very often, but sometimes. A couple of years ago I was walking out of the hospital and on the ground I saw a credit card.

Now I know the panic of a lost wallet. So I picked it up and pondered what to do. I searched the name on the card and found a couple of possibilities. A bit more searching and I discovered the owner was an in-home caregiver, out of work because her mother was in the hospital and she was caring for her. Without much income she was using her card to help with the crisis. She was indeed in a panic. Apparently it had fallen out of her purse when she reached for her car keys. She was fearful and not sure what could happen next.

Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost and must be found.

There is an old riddle that asks: How does the lost sheep repent? The answer: By allowing himself to be found.

Sometimes when energy has ebbed and we’re tired, when much, or all seems lost, all we have to do is lie on the floor in the corner, as St. Anthony did, offer a prayer, and the Lord will pick us up.

Rabbi Eleazer, a teacher centuries ago, used to ask his students “Why don’t you repent one day before your death?” One student replied, “But when will I know when that day comes?”

To which Eleazar replied, “all the more reason to repent today.” 

“The sea obeys and fetters break and shattered hopes thou dost restore, While treasures lost are found again when young or old thine aid implore.”

“Tony, Tony, Turn Around, somethings lost and must be found.”