Sunday, September 12, 2010

There are no Write-offs with God - A Homily for Proper 24, Year C, 2010

Homily for Proper 24, Year C, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 15:1-10

"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?"
--Luke 15:8

I am a terrible one for losing or misplacing things. Sometimes I am so preoccupied by other matters that after making a cup of tea I will place the sugar in the refrigerator and the milk in the cupboard. Athena doesn’t even need to ask me any more where these things are. After fifteen years of marriage, she has learned how my distracted mind works.

I used to have a little leather change purse that my grandmother made for my grandfather. After he died she gave it to me. I treasured it very much, but sadly, one day I lost it, never to be found again. This brings me to my current problem. I am constantly losing pocket change in the chairs, in the couch, and in the car. One day this week I got out of the car, carrying an armful of things, and loose change came out of my pockets onto the ground, and a penny rolled under the car. It was raining, so I quickly gathered up most of the change, but decided I wasn’t going to get down on my hands and knees for a penny and rushed into the church. Some things just don’t seem to be worth going after.

When I was manager of the Anglican Book Centre at Church House, I learned a great deal from the General Synod’s Treasurer, a wonderful man named Jim who had the most impressive Scottish accent. When we would take inventory and come up with the discrepancy list, and begin the search for what was lost, he taught us that certain things must be found and accounted for (namely things of great value) and that there were other things (like little trinkets) that were simply “not material.” Some things just weren’t going after. That day as I dropped that change, the penny under the car just seemed to be “not material.”

I think most of us have had moments when we have realized that we have just needed to cut our losses in some way or another. There are some things that are not worth going after. This need not be limited to tangible things. There may be dreams that we have needed to let go of or hopes that we must leave unfulfilled. To return to the old accounting terminology, there are many things we may just need to “write off.”

How fortunate we are then, to have a God that does not believe in “write-offs.” The God we worship deems all of us, and indeed all his creation, of infinite value. When I hear those parables, parables of lost sheep, lost coins, and a third parable about a certain lost son that follows immediately on today’s texts, I wonder if I would go and search for that one coin in ten, or one sheep in a hundred that was lost. I wonder if, having taken inventory, I would count the loss as “not material” and “write it off” grateful for what I still had. Jesus suggests to the Pharisees that they would of course go after what was lost. But I wonder if hearing his words they might share similar thoughts to my own and begin questioning whether or not they would really seek out what was lost. At first glance, it because this parable contains a question directed at the Pharisees (“who among you would not go searching?”), it would appear that the parable is a moral lesson about what we should do and how we should act. When I think about how I would act though, and the pennies that I have left under the car, and the “write-offs” that are strewn about my life, I doubt I can live up to such a standard.

But, upon deeper reflection, the story is less about what we would do and more about what God does. These are parables meant to instruct us on the nature of God. And as we consider the text more closely, we realize that Jesus does not intend for us to align ourselves with the one who does the seeking but as the one being sought out! Recognizing that more than likely, we would not seek out what is lost, our attention turns to what has been lost and in what is lost we begin to see our own story. We are not the Pharisees, whom Jesus questions, but the lost sheep, the lost coin, or the lost son.

Who amongst us has not felt left behind or misplaced or discarded at some moment or another by those in whom we placed our trust. Oh, this feeling can come in so many ways – the unexpected news that we have been downsized; the breakdown of a marriage and impact that has on family members; the death of one dearly loved; or more to the point of the parable, when we have done something that we dearly regret that has isolated us from others. So many situations may leave us feeling abandoned or unimportant. More than once I have felt like a “write-off.” I expect this is true for others as well. We are the lost sheep, the lost coin.

The Good News is that God relentlessly pursues that one sheep in a hundred, that one in coin in ten, that penny under the car, that misplaced trinket, that forlorn lonely one, and yes, even and especially, the sinner. There is not one that is not precious in sight. We deal not with a distant, aloof God, but with one who, in the person of Jesus Christ, chose to walk amongst us through the uncertainty of life and seek us out when hearts are broken and mistakes are made. A lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost soul, these are all precious in his sight. God longs deeply and everlastingly to enfold each and every one of us in the embrace of divine love.

This is a love that brings about reconciliation in the midst of conflict, comfort in the midst of loss, and healing in the midst of brokenness. It is a love offered unto death and yet is more powerful than death, for it is a love that broke the chains of death in the Resurrection of our Lord. It is a love that scours creation for what is lost and restores it to glory. There is no coin of so small a denomination that it matters not to the Lord. There is no sinner with so great a sin that God’s love cannot redeem. The lamp of God shines into the darkest corners and finds us shedding rays of hope and love.

Thus in moments when we feel most alone, fear not, for there are no “write-offs” in the Kingdom of God.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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