by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, September 15, 2013:
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-14
First Reading (Semi-cont.): Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm: Psalm 51:1-11 (Psalm 51:1-10 NRSV)
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 14
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-10
This week, we have parables of lost creatures and lost things. When we read these parables, which character calls more clearly to you? Are you the shepherd or the sheep? Are you the woman sweeping or the coin?
I never really thought about the story from the perspective of the coin, until a few years ago. Pastor Mary Canniff-Kuhn was leading a Bible study on parables, and she said, “What about that lost coin? What’s it doing? Nothing. It’s just sitting there.”
These parables reassure us that we don’t have to do anything to deserve being found. We don’t have to redeem ourselves. God is the shepherd who will come looking for one lost sheep, even if that sheep is the dumbest, most unworthy sheep in the history of animal husbandry. God will light the lamps and sweep under the cupboards until the coin is found.
As Christians, we have a creator who goes to great lengths to find us, to be with us, to enter into a relationship with us. If you look at both the Old and New Testament, you see God trying a variety of techniques: crafting a beautiful creation, resorting to rage when that creation doesn’t behave, wiping out populations, rescuing populations. The New Testament shows a continuation of this story, with God taking the most extreme step of becoming human.
What does it mean for our lives if we really believe that God will go to all this effort for us? Look at the story again. The shepherd isn’t rescuing a whole flock of sheep. The shepherd goes to that effort for just one sheep. What does it mean for us, if we believe that God is like that shepherd?
Many of us might not be quite comfortable with that idea. We like the idea of a distant god, maybe one who made the whole creation and then went away to leave us to our own devices. Do we really want a God who doesn’t allow us to wallow in our lostness? Do we really want a God who takes such efforts to find us when we go astray?
Most of us do yearn for someone to pay attention to us in just this way. We often look for that kind of attention in our families, but I know I’m not the only way who has returned home after a long day in the office, only to find our families so engaged in other activities that they don’t even notice our return. Maybe you’ve yearned for a dog who would be happy to see you, and each day would announce its doggy joy in your return to the hearth.
God’s slobbery kisses may not be as noticeable at first, but God is the one who marks our comings and goings with as much steadfastness as a good dog. God is that good dog of popular culture who will know that something’s wrong before anyone else does. God will go to great lengths to find us, to bring us back to the flock, back to the coin purse. We worship a God who will not rest until we’re all present and accounted for. That’s Good News indeed.