The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lost and Found

Pentecost 16; Proper 19C
Luke 15:1-10


In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I lost my keys this week.

It’s funny how the lectionary texts seem to come around at just the right time.

I don’t typically misplace things. In fact, I’m the one many of my friends turn to when they’ve misplaced things. I’m both good at remembering where I saw them last and good at imagining where they might have been forgotten.

But lately I’ve been losing things or forgetting where they’re placed. Part of it is probably because I’ve just moved and haven’t quite found my way around yet. Part of it is because I’m used to living in much humbler accommodations. I’m attributing the lost keys to living on the grounds with the church, and simply not needing them every day.

I first noticed my lost keys on Friday afternoon. I had popped into the office to check on something for today, when a sudden, inexplicable shift in the pressure happened in the Rectory. Out of nowhere, the door between my office and the house slammed shut.

Instantly I felt in my pocket. Nothing. I stepped over to the door to see if I had left it unlocked, which, of course, I hadn’t.

Fortunately, Vanessa came to my rescue and let me back into the house, but the deeper problem remained. I had to find those keys.

For most of the next day I searched through the house, high and low. I checked the pants that I’d worn the day before. I checked on every flat surface in the house. I checked in the couch cushions. I checked under the bed. I checked places I’d check five times before.

I couldn’t sleep Friday night for thinking about where these keys had gone. When I tried to relax in front of the TV, I couldn’t get through a show because I’d go check somewhere else or somewhere again.

By Saturday afternoon, panic had started to set in. I was having terrifying visions of expensive locksmith bills for the church and my car; visions of wasted time and being unable to leave the house or drive.

But, then, when my search widened to places that they couldn’t possibly be, that’s exactly where I found them. They were in the office: sitting about ten inches from the place where I had waited the day before for Vanessa to come and rescue me. […I’m sorry, Vanessa…]

Of course this is something of a silly story of loss, but we all know what its like to lose things. To lose people. To lose relationships through the agonies of death or estrangement. We understand the fear and the confusion. We understand the sadness.

In the Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus tells two short parables that use somewhat “silly” stories of loss to convey a larger point.

We are told, “all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.” Some of the most undesirable people of society came to sit at the feet of the teacher. And the teacher was foolish enough to welcome them. The leaders of the community were “grumbling” – not so much because Jesus would dare to teach, but because Jesus would dare to welcome.

When we hear parables or other episodes from the Bible, we often imagine where we would fit into the story. Are we the shepherd or the woman: desperately searching for the one that was lost? Are we the sheep or the coin: isolated and alone, immobilized and unable to reach out to the one who seeks us?

Even beyond the parable – are we Christ: spreading the good news of the radical love of God even to those who seem most unworthy? Are we the “tax collectors and sinners”: most unworthy ourselves?

Are we the Pharisees and the scribes sitting in judgment of the love of God?

I think the default position for most people is to identify as the seeker. Like the shepherd and the widow, we’ve been there. Whether it’s for something silly like keys or something or someone more significant, we have all sought. We can identify with that role.

But similarly, not only have we all sought, we all are sought.

There’s a degree to which we are the tax collectors and sinners. We are the bottom rungs of society for whom the “welcome” of Christ seems least likely. But we receive it nonetheless.

But there’s also a degree to which we are the Pharisees and the scribes. We expect the welcome of Christ for ourselves and feel threatened when it’s shared with those on the outside. And we receive it all the same.

It’s like the parable of the keys that I lived earlier this week: when I widened my search to include those places where “they couldn’t possibly be,” I found them. So, too, when we widen our searching for the love of God to those places that logic tells us that it couldn’t possibly be, that’s precisely where we will always find it: among the misdeeds of the tax collectors and the sinners; among the arrogance of the Pharisees and the scribes; even among the misdeeds and arrogance in ourselves.

Though we are lost, we are sought. Amen.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I lost my appointment book. I searched for the better part of a week for it. 15 minutes after buying a new one, Ms. Conroy found it. - hiding in plain sight.

Hand to Jesus - Who never stops searching for us until we find ourselves in Him - hiding in plain sight.