A while ago, my son introduced me to Tile: an app and gadget for helping locate missing things. He was fed up with me constantly losing my keys and my mobile phone, despite my best efforts to have a set place for each! My losing things affects my family, and without these items, I find myself also lost, adrift without my diary, contacts etc., so I sympathise with the woman in Jesus’ parable of the lost coin, as she desperately searched her house from top to bottom, sweeping floors and shifting furnishings until she found her missing coin. More seriously, I remember the anxiety and urgency experienced as a parent, when we lost – albeit briefly – that same son as a small child on a trip to the beach. I appreciate the woman’s relief, her delight and her desire to celebrate the finding with others, in this parable.
The story is one of three told by Jesus on the theme of searching for and restoration of something precious which was lost: one sheep which had wandered away out of a flock of 100 in the hills, one silver coin – a whole day’s wages – misplaced out of a store of 10 in the home, one profligate son astray in his life. In these parables the sheep and the coin represent people as much as the prodigal son. There is nothing obviously different about one sheep or one coin from the others; this going astray in life applies to any of us and can happen anywhere and at any time. Taken together, told to a mixed audience of socially-rejected sinners and socially-respected religious representatives, the three parables convey the message that God values all, including the despised and flawed, and delights in those who turn their lives around to come humbly to him. We are invited to see God as constantly and ardently seeking those who are lost in life for whatever reason, long before they (we) may seek him. The recurring theme is that God rejoices in their (our) recovery: all are precious and heaven delights in their restoration.
We don’t know who was invited to the father’s party celebrating his son’s return, but in the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin, the shepherd and the woman both summon their friends and neighbours to share in the joy. Maybe that seems a little over the top, but following through the metaphor of sheep and coin, perhaps the loss of these created a hurt not only to one individual who cared for them but to the whole close-knit community where they belonged. Perhaps we are invited here to join collectively in caring as much about seeking and helping and celebrating those who need God’s love to flourish, as God himself seeks and cares? I wonder what are the losses in our society today that damage the wholeness of our collective life, and the close-knitting of our communities, where together we may support each other – a loss of confidence and hope in the face of overwhelming economic burden? A loss of trust in the power and will to safeguard the environment? A loss of sense of self-worth and resilience in the face of mental health suffering? …
Lord, we rely on your unflagging searching for us and grace to keep us safe.
Help us to be diligent in looking out and caring for each other
and in sharing the joy of your love.
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