Jesus loved to tell stories. We come up lots of convoluted ways of reading and analysing them as if he said them with one eye on a guy writing them down for posterity. But really he told them in order to connect with his listener. Sometimes they seem straightforward and sometimes they seem baffling. Regardless, it is down to the listener to take it away and let it take root in their heart.
I’ve been thinking a lot about these stories and how we use them. For the following year I am using the story of the Prodigal Son as my template for understanding my relationship with God, how we recover and are restored from sin and disappointment and generally as a foundation stone for Jesus’ call to us to follow him.
But before we get to that story Jesus tells some quickie warm ups about other lost things: coins and sheep.
I was pondering his story about a woman and her lost coin this morning:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15
The muttering is always irritating to Jesus. When provoked he answers the muttering with a story:
…suppose a woman has ten silver coinsand loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Who has a purse full of coins but spends all day looking for the one that has slipped out and then throws a party when they find it? Well, if we take Jesus at face value, apparently God does.
It’s a weird story but then the idea of God taking time out from all the important almighty stuff he does to pay attention to the least things is kind of weird too. Unless, of course, you’re Jesus who seems to think this is what God spends most of his time doing.
There is a powerful, deep seated truth at the heart of this story. The coin had value before it was lost. It didn’t gain value in being found. It was searched for because it was valuable in its own right.
I don’t know about you but I often feel like a coin that has fallen out of someone’s pocket. I make mistakes and wrong choices and hurt others and dig myself into holes I can’t get out of. I often feel that God has lots of coins and won’t miss me. The longer I stay out of that pocket or purse the more I feel that if I am found I will no longer be legal tender.
But, before I lapse into some great despair, I read that parable again. It’s not a one off. That person with full pockets is looking for me. They don’t feel they have enough without me. They aren’t just content with those other coins. I’m just a penny, but he is still looking for me.
What I love about the lost and found parables in Luke is that they are open ended. These valuable things are vulnerable to being lost again and again and God searches for them again and again. Not because he owes it to us but because he is determined not to lose us.