Rev. Heather J. Blais, Rector
In today’s gospel, Jesus is teaching a large crowd as they travel towards Jerusalem. Within the crowd were tax collectors, and individuals known to be sinners. When Jesus heard some Pharisees and scribes grumbling about the company he kept, Jesus offered them a series of three parables:
In the parable of the lost sheep, a shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to go and find the one that has strayed away. It’s no small risk. After all, while seeking out the lone sheep something could happen to those ninety-nine others that might endanger the lives of the sheep, and the livelihood of the shepherd.
James Rebank, a shepherd in England, describes shepherding in his book The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, as well as, actively on Twitter. Rebank writes:
“My job is simple: get around the fields and feed and shepherd the different flocks of ewes--dealing with any issues that arise. First rule of shepherding: it’s not about you; it’s about the sheep and the land. Second rule: sometimes you can’t win. Third rule: shut up, and go and do the work” (p.201).
The shepherd in today’s parable, likely shared a similar outlook. Finding this sheep was simply part of the shepherd’s calling and responsibility. It’s not about the shepherd’s ego, or even the shepherd’s livelihood; it’s about the sheep and the land. Even if the shepherd’s search were to prove unsuccessful, the work of shepherding, of caring for the lost, and the found, is simply part of the job.
When the shepherd in the parable finds his lost sheep, he calls his friends and neighbors, and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (Luke 15:6). Finding this lost sheep is a relief, and a joy worthy of celebration. Rebank describes this kind of joy when he writes, “As ever with a farming life, the little triumphs matter, because of the countless failures” (p.160).
This parable is a reminder to the crowd listening to Jesus, and to us, that no one is beyond redemption. Whether we have lost our way, or have been found for a long while, our lives have value and meaning to our God. Not for God’s ego, but because we are each beloved, beautiful, and broken children of God. Sometimes we are going to get lost. Sometimes we are going to muck up our lives and the lives of those around us. And even still, God will come searching after us. Because we are loved beyond measure, even when we lose our way.
In the parable of the lost coin, we see a woman who loses one of the ten silver coins she has in her home, as she lights a lamp and searches high and low until she finds it. This story is interpreted in a couple of ways. One interpretation is that the woman is poor, and finding this coin is essential to her livelihood. Of course she will sweep her home from top to bottom, using what precious and expensive oil might be in her lamp to find the coin. Then when she finds the coin, it is such good news that she calls her friends and neighbors to say, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost” (15:9).
Another interpretation to this story, and admittedly, the one I prefer, indicates this woman is actually not poor. Indeed, she owns a home, and these ten coins reflect the money she has on hand in her home at that particular moment. Upon the realization that she has lost the coin, she lights her lamp, and sweeps her home high and low until she finds the coin. Using this lens, the woman is not searching out of fear and scarcity, but rather out of our mutual calling to be good stewards of our resources. The woman is ensuring she is a responsible caretaker who wastes nothing.
Both of these stories serve as a reminder that each and every person is a beloved, beautiful, and broken child of God. Each and every one of us here today; each and every person out there; and even, each and every internet troll, criminal, or ‘bad guy’. The good news about the Good News is that it is for everyone.
Which is why at the invitation for Holy Eucharist, Molly and I say every week, “This is God’s table, and all are welcome here. No exceptions.”
We are each of value and worth, even losing our way does not take away this truth. None of us is beyond the reach of our God. When we lose our way, God will turn the light on, and sweep the house to find us. When we’ve lost all hope, God will bare the elements to find us in the wilderness. This is the message Jesus wants the crowd of tax collectors, sinners, families, elderly travelers, Pharisees, scribes, disciples, and all the rest of the travelers to hear.
Yet if we keep digging, these parables hold even more truth for us. The shepherd who puts his care of the sheep and land before himself. The woman who puts her care of her resources before herself. Just as humanity is never beyond redemption, nor is all of creation.
During this season of creation care, the Church is invited to wake up to the ways we have abused our power over the earth. In the beginning, we were called to be stewards of creation, and instead we have become a cancer to creation, draining the earth of its resources and leaving a wasteland in our midst. These parables are an invitation for us to be better caretakers of creation. We have become accustomed to convenience, and often are unwilling or unsure of how to change our customs and behaviors so that creation might begin to heal. Many of us know we need to do something, but are unsure of where to begin.
In the last nine months, the church’s new Green Team has worked to help us navigate ways to help be better stewards of creation. They’ve hosted 100 mile meals, asked us to take creation care pledges, maintain a blog, and on November 10, the Green Team will be leading a discussion of the book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste. Our Green Team is here to help us, as we seek to live more intentionally as caretakers of creation. And there are countless other resources in the Pioneer Valley to help us live more intentionally.
We do not have to be overwhelmed into inaction. To do so, would be a choice to remain lost in the wilderness. God has invited us to realize something bigger. We are never too lost for God. Nor is God’s creation too lost to be healed. Not if we work together. Amen.
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