Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 12, 2010
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.” Luke 15:8-10
Grumble, grumble, mumble and grumble. You may have heard it before– that barely audible, stingy vocal rumbling when something doesn’t square with someone’s idea of how things ought to be. If you’re hearing it, chances are that you might just be the object of the mumble-fest. Pastors and church leaders hear it, although they are often pretty late to catch on, the last to know the juicy scoop about them. Teachers, administrators, and even the U.S. President are acquainted with the mumble-fest factor. So was Jesus.
In this week’s gospel lesson, the Pharisees and scribes were the mumble-grumblers. “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them,” they complain. Do you catch that whiff of indignation, that tone of contempt? Remember, these are the good guys, the leaders. How come they are so stingy with grace, so ridden with rules? Oh yes, human nature!
Jesus, however, is not willing to let this pity party slide, and he offers a couple of illustrations involving the finding of what has been lost. First we have the story of the 99 safe sheep and the one gone missing. The shepherd leaves the 99 to search for the one. I suppose he could have cut his losses, but he didn’t; in fact, he throws a lavish party upon finding the lost sheep. Next we have a story about a woman losing one of 10 silver coins. With no Pella windows to let the sun shine in, the woman lights her lamp, employs her broom, and sweeps the floor until the coin is found. She is not content to simply put the coin back into her money bag; instead, the woman informs her friends and neighbors, calling them to rejoice with her.
Joy and rejoicing are clear marks of the lost being found, of the sinner/outsider repenting, being redeemed, and brought into the circle of acceptance and participation. Why then are we humans so stingy with our rejoicing over changed lives, over others being found by God? Why are there so many dour faces in worship on a Sunday morning? If the angels sing, why shouldn’t we?
Dear friends, we are the one sheep, we are the coin! We are the “found” in this story, too. It’s not just those other “sinners” that Jesus is talking about. It is each and every one of us–dearly beloved of God–that Jesus is talking about. Robert Tannehill (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Luke, p. 238) says this: “Repentance is more an experience of being found by a concerned seeker than the product of human effort. And its public sign is joy at the gift of new life rather than doleful remorse. “
Truly, if God is so delighted to have found us, we must show such delight in the finding of ourselves and others. Whenever we gather as the Body of Christ for worship and praise, let joy be the sign of our gratitude. There is, indeed, reason to celebrate. So let’s smooth those furrowed brows, turn those frowns into smiles, and start the celebration!
Photo by Martin Talbot used under a Creative Commons License. Thanks!