theunfamiliarname

Homily for Ordinary Sunday 24C

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2010 at 11:37 am

I was watching a TV sketch show the other day,
featuring an mock infomercial
for a patented flank-pat system
for finding books on a bookcase,
finding misplaced keys, or finding scissors in the kitchen.

It wouldn’t have been at all funny,
unless there wasn’t something unnervingly true
about our ridiculous and obsessive behaviour
when something’s not where we want it to be.

In questionable taste, the infomercial ended
with a search and rescue team
using similarly useless methods
in the aftermath of an earthquake.
At which point it felt a little too close to home…
We can give thanks to God
that amidst all the destruction and distress
of the last week in Canterbury
there has been no loss of life,
no searching for survivors in the rubble.
But we can imagine and relate
to the desperation of such a search.

Our gospel this morning,
the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin,
fuses such obsession and need
in seeking out that which is lost.
In fact, there’s a third parable that follows immediately
with which this movement culminates,
that of the lost or prodigal son,
and I’d like you to bear that well-known parable in mind.

Jesus tells these parables
in response to criticism over the company he keeps.
The good religious people
see him welcome and eat
with “sinners” and those on the margins.

And very simply,
Jesus tells stories
that speak of God’s overwhelming desire to find the lost,
and that challenge those
who don’t seem to understand that.

“Seeking the lost”,
when used in a churchy sense,
is a phrase that itself
takes on connotations of judgement.
And perhaps Jesus speaks to challenge us today…

We have, this morning, examples of loss and obsession:
whether in a dim-witted sheep who’s wandered off,
and the shepherd who leaves a flock behind to look for it;

a coin, that can’t be blamed for rolling away,
and the woman who sweeps and searches until it’s found;

or – in the case of the Prodigal Son – an individual
who has made the intentional choice to travel far-off,
and the father who allows him to go,
but longs for his return.

In all three of these stories,
the shepherd, the woman, the father
– all representing God –
is looking for what is lost,
not casually, but single-mindedly.
More than that, the shepherd leaves the 99 “good” sheep
to search for just one that’s gone astray.
… That is stupidly single-minded.
But such, Jesus suggests, is the love of God for each of us.

Everything stops in the household
as the woman searches for one coin out of ten.
Throwing a party when she finds it,
that must have meant a net financial loss.

And the meaning we’re to take from all this
is not hard to fathom:  God, more than we can imagine,
wants those who are or who feel far-off to be brought close.

And that may be those
who wouldn’t dream of darkening these doors,
… or just maybe it might often be you and I.

Jesus tells these stories to the Pharisees and scribes,
who looked with judgement on their contemporaries.
Jesus tells these stories that speak of God rejoicing,
of joy in heaven, of celebration and sharing together
because of the recovery of what is loved and once was lost.
God’s magnificent obsession:  us.
Whether we feel we need finding,
or are already near to God,
while we are called to repentance and to respond
to the One who seeks us out,
we are invited to enter into God’s delight in humankind.
To recognise and celebrate the joy of heaven
over every life transformed.
To let that joy echo within us.

Jesus talks to the Pharisees and scribes,
and in the parable of the Prodigal Son
has an older brother appear,
who is unable to rejoice with his father,
and – for all his faithfulness –
seems to be distant from the character representing God.

So often the Church has been guilty of pouring water
on what God might be doing.
A narrowness of vision,
or a meanness of spirit
has perhaps turned people away.

We are called to live with the joy
of the God who has sought us out,
to celebrate and share this with others,
not grumbling in judgement, but living in love.

Sharing in love and in fellowship,
so that –
even as we might at times image the obsession of God
in needing to find what is lost –
we might certainly share
in the delight of the Divine,
that we and others are so gracefully
welcomed to God’s table.

Found.
Forgiven.
Fed.

That we in turn might seek out the lost,
forgive others,
and share our bread,
rejoicing with heaven in the grace and love of God.

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