SCRIPTURE READING Luke 15:1-10 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
MESSAGE “Lost, Missing Forgotten” Rev. James R. Renfrew
So there’s this woman and she loses a coin. What’s the big deal? She has nine more. But here’s the deal: these ten coins were the woman’s dowry, the money that would be given to the man who would marry her. She might have worn the coins as jewelry or woven them into a scarf, sort of a walking ad for marriage availability. When Jesus told the story, every woman needed a dowry. Ten silver coins was a lot of money, and they were the woman’s best chance at finding a good husband. Losing one of those coins meant that she would have to settle for a husband of lesser quality. What about you? Think about your husband, you women who have been married: do you like the one you got, or would one of 10% less quality be ok? That 10% might be the difference between Prince Charming and Godzilla.
So it isn’t like when I lose some pocket change in my recliner. This lost coin was a crucial part of the woman’s hopes and dreams. So, believe me, she searched for that coin, high and low, she used a broom because her home had a dirt floor, and she was probably listening for the jingle of the coin when it knocked into a pebble. And then, she found it! Her high hopes were no longer in danger, her future was secured. She was so excited and relieved that she invited her friends over for a party.
Of course, it’s really a story about God, God who considers you as valuable as that lost coin was to the woman, so valuable that God spares no effort to find you. I hope you are imagining how hard God works to search for you, to get your attention, to touch your heart, and through you to change the world.
What are some of the ways that you might be lost? Hanging with the wrong people, not just people who would lead you into bad behavior, but the people who keep you from aiming high in life, and who teach you to settle for far less than you could be. How else? You could feel lost if you are the kind of person who is usually able to fix things, but you can’t fix cancer or blindness or aging. Everything you thought you were good at doesn’t work, and you feel lost. You could feel lost if your marriage is stuck and you don’t know which direction to go. You could feel lost with a conflict between neighbors or co-workers. You could feel lost with worry about the security of your job. Maybe you feel lost, too, with the political gridlock that seems to get worse and worse. Something should be done, but nothing gets done. And then added into the mix is an alarming degree of religious intolerance, extremism, and anger stirred up by people who should know better.
If you’ve been feeling lost, here’s a shiny coin to work with, from Paul’s Letter to Timothy: “In my life the grace of the Lord overflows!” If anything Paul should have been weeping with overflowing tears about all of the ways he was lost. Paul was a first class sinner! He was a first class sinner because he had blood on his hands from having arrested, tortured, and killed Jesus’ followers. Anyone here a first class sinner? How about second class sinners? Or are you a third class sinner? It doesn’t matter because God forgives you no matter what class you’re in, and you’re invited to Jesus’ party. The broom swept you up.
How could God possibly forgive sinners? Pharisees were outraged when they heard about the first-class sinners Jesus invited to dinner with him: tax collectors, law-breakers, and worse. They were shocked to learn from Jesus that the people they considered least deserving of God’s forgiveness might be the very ones that God is reaching out to first.
Well, we’re having a party this morning, at the Communion Table. Those Pharisees would be outraged to hear that you are on Jesus’ guest list. So we’re not just talking about Paul overflowing with God’s grace, we’re not just talking about all of those law-breakers Jesus invited to dinner centuries ago. We are especially talking about you, and the mercy and forgiveness that God wants to overwhelm you with today! There are over 5 billion people in the world, and God has made sure that your name is on the list.
When the woman finds the coin she calls all of her friends over for a party. That’s how it is with God, Jesus says, God throws a party every time a sinner is found, every time a sinner discovers the incredible generosity and love God shows to each one of us. Hold a coin in your own hand. You’re like that coin. If you’re a lost coin, God will find you. (Drop coins on table)