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One day, many years ago now, I was standing in the check-out line at the grocery store when suddenly a woman a few aisles over started shouting at the top of her lungs “Robert! Robert! Robert!” It was the unmistakeable sound of a mother desperately trying to find her child who had slipped away from view. Immediately those of us around her joined the search until Robert was found. Mother and child were reunited and a great swell of applause rang out across the store.
Take a moment to think about that person, thing or even way of life that is most precious in your life and what it would be like to lose that and what you might do to get it back. It’s not that you wouldn’t be able to continue without what you’ve lost but life would feel incomplete. Part of the whole would be missing.
It’s been said that the two parables we heard this morning, the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin, along with the story of the prodigal son which comes right after them is the “gospel within the gospel” of Luke. The one sheep that has wandered off is returned to the fold. The lost coin is retrieved, the lost son is restored to his family and there is rejoicing and celebration. Good news abounds.
We like these stories. In fact, this church in many ways has been built around these stories. They speak the broad welcome that we give voice to at the beginning of each and every one of our worship services. They speak to our understanding of the nature of God, love without boundaries.
We like these stories because we identify with them personally, because from time to time we all lose our way in life. Not one of us is without need of being found out, gathered in, carried back home and loved. And the really good news of these parables is that there’s nothing we have to say or do to earn or deserve being sought out and cared for.
Jesus says these stories are about repentant sinners but the interesting thing is that in the examples he uses no one actually repents. The coin certainly doesn’t admit to rolling into the corner when it knew it should have been in the purse and it’s unlikely the sheep confesses its disregard for shepherd. It’s not the actions of the lost that cause them to be worthy of being found. The action in the parables all belong to the persistence and determination of the seekers who find them.
And the interesting thing about these parables is that although we might readily identify with the sheep and the coin, its actually the shepherd and the woman with the broom who sweeps clean her house in search of that one precious piece of metal that ultimately we are asked to identify ourselves with. For as much as we might resonate with the lost, we are called to be seekers. We are meant to be people who make manifest God’s infinite grace and love in the world.
So, in these weeks when we are reflecting on what it means for us to live in respect with creation, we might want to ask ourselves what has been or is being lost in our world right now. What is slipping through our fingers and seemingly beyond our reach that we need to seek out and find.
On a day like today when temperatures are soaring once again, it’s hard not to acknowledge that we have lost weather patterns to which we are more accustomed. With the loss of those weather patterns have come the actual loss or the threatened loss of a whole host of species and natural phenomenon: coral reefs, bees to pollinate our …
There’s no need of course for any of these that have been lost to repent of course. It’s not their fault that they are under threat. The blame is squarely to be placed on our shoulders, we who if the Book of Genesis has any validity are called to be stewards of our planetary home.
So perhaps what we need to repent of is not behaviours that cause us to be lost but rather behaviours that have made us complacent or lack lustre in our persistence and determination to seek out and find what we have lost, so our planet can be restored to a state of wholeness and we along with it.
In our parables today and in the real life story of the woman who lost her child in the grocery store, the thing that drives the action is the value the seekers place on the lost items. The shepherd goes looking for the one sheep because that one sheep matters to him, it has value. The woman sweeps every corner of her house until she finds the lost coin because of what it is worth to her. The mother in the grocery store screams at the top of her lungs for little Robert because Robert is her child, her kin and she can’t imagine life without him. He is precious in her sight.
Can you imagine life without the sound of birds in the sky or the site of fish in the sea, the smell of the wet forest or the taste of freshly picked peach? These things are precious to us and beyond that they are precious, they have value just for being what they are not just because we need them to survive. Does the thought of losing these things make us desperate enough to persistently search them out with the kind of determination that I believe it is going to take not just to find again what we’ve already lost but to prevent even greater loss in the future?
This summer I have been reading Sarah Winman’s beautiful novel Still Life. It’s a book about love in its multitude of forms: romantic love, love found in family and through friendship and love expressed in the way that humanity shows up for one another in times of war, natural disaster, tragedy and loss. In one of the subplots of the book two people who had a chance encounter that impacted each of their lives for years to come, find one another again after decades of separation. So deep was the impression they had made on each other that when the hint of possibility that they might find one another again arose, they took up the search with dogged determination.
When in the second last chapter of the book these two fictional characters finally found each other, I had a visceral response. My own soul resonated with the feeling that comes when you reconnect with something or someone that you value deeply and love greatly.
In the Celtic Christian tradition it is said that we suffer from soul forgetfulness. We have forgotten who we are and therefore have fallen out of true relationship with the earth and with one another. Our path to wholeness therefore is about waking up to a knowledge that is deep in the very fabric of our being. We are one with all of creation. We are all of great value. Perhaps when we repent of our forgetfulness to seek out and find that truth about ourselves and our planet once again we will find our wholeness and we will all be saved. May we do so with persistence and determination and in so doing may we rediscover that we have already been found.
Ironically, when it comes to what’s being lost in creation it really and truly is no fault of