"Oh no! Look who's coming to dinner!"
All along his life, Jesus told stories which were more than simple yarns. They were parables with a deep and immediate significance. The Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Two Debtors and the Parable of the Prodigal Son all are rich in human drama and conflict.
As a matter of fact, almost all of our Lord’s parables are about human characters with whom the hearers could easily identify themselves.
By contrast, the two parables from today’s gospel seem so simple and almost impersonal. A lost sheep and a lost coin. These two non-characters do not develop through the story.
In the Good Samaritan one can easily imagine – almost feel – how the abandoned man could have felt, and what could have gone through his mind. Here in today’s parable, there is just a dumb sheep that managed to separate from the flock and got lost, and a coin that somehow driven by the forces of nature, rolls away into a dark and remote crack in the floor.
One can wonder why Jesus choose such non-human characters. Why not another parable about human beings?
Pastor Dr. James Barnette remarks that perhaps, Jesus “begins with these nonhuman characters because His listeners see the sinners with whom Jesus dines as less than human. Perhaps Jesus is stepping up to that high and holy crest from which the ‘righteous’ Pharisees gaze downwardly at these lowlifes who are dragging down the party. If so, then why not use a sheep or a coin as metaphors for these second-rate souls?”
As we understand, we realize that if even under the eyes of the religious leaders of the day the gate-crashers were unworthy souls, under God’s eyes they were, nevertheless, immensely treasured.
Under the eyes of the religious leaders of the day – those who had the largest audiences, those who built the largest religious empires of the day, those who knew their Bibles and commentaries from A to Z, and those who the rich and powerful sought as their convenient allies – for them the tax collectors and the owners of seedy joints were second-rate souls.
However, in the parable they appear to be so valued that, in fact, the farmer – not the shepherd boy but the owner himself – drops everything and goes after the lost sheep. And the rich woman, rather than sending the maid after the coin, leaves her friends and neighbors and goes after a single coin.
In the little parable there is not a lot of information about why the sheep got lost or how the coin came to be lost. But the parable sheds a bright light on the character of the farmer and the woman.
In other words, even if the farmer and the woman may have had other coins or plenty of sheep, their world was incomplete without just one coin or a single sheep. And, neither the farmer nor the woman would spare anything until they found what they were missing.
It is interesting to note that in his story, Jesus does not deny that some of those who surrounded Him were coming from the wrong side of the tracks. In fact, the whole point of the story was that even in their condition, they were valuable to Him. As Jesus announced early in his ministry, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners,” (Mark 2:17).
Jesus did not scold them for their waywardness but brought the lost back home to be healed and to be restored. The religious clique of the day despised and blamed those who had gone stray – “It was their own fault they were in such a sorry state, isn’t it?” “They should have known better, right?”
Jesus on the other hand, goes not only after them, but carries them over his shoulders back home where they belong, and celebrates with them. In our second lesson St. Paul put it this way – “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to seek the most shameful sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
In our Lord’s view, then, the fire of joy in heaven was not stocked by those who made their ultimate goal in life to reach perfect purity but by those who in their lostness were found and brought back home.
In our Lord’s time coins were not machined in perfect roundels. So, one can wonder, how come an uneven coin could roll away and gone astray to the farthest corner of the house?
Sometimes, many lives have been shaped by forces beyond each individual’s own control. They can only see themselves as imperfect. Even if was not their own fault, still they see themselves as beyond repair and too far gone to be reached by God’s loving embrace.
The point that Jesus made in the story was to highlight that the most important parameter of a coin was not its shape but what it was made of – gold, silver, or copper.
And here my friends, is the good news. What it gives us worth is not in what shape we are or how come we came to be where we are, but that we are made of God. In each one of us there is a spark of God that makes us so valuable that Jesus cannot spare a moment to come to search for us.
And this is what Jesus’ ministry was all about. And this is why St David’s is still here, opening the doors Sunday after Sunday, trying to reach out to those in need, and in perhaps simple but nevertheless heartfelt and real ways is trying to serve in their time of need.
And this is why we celebrate Homecoming. It is more than a tradition and it is more than just a social occasion, even if it is as it is indeed.
Homecoming is a preview of the joy of heaven. It is a reminder of our immense worth under God’s eyes. It is a reminder that Jesus will not sit still until He gathers us all – and I mean all, even those who for some reason disqualify themselves – in the heavenly realms of glory – beginning here, at St David’s, Aylett.
So, my friends, brothers and sisters, welcome back home! The table is ready! Let’s celebrate that we have been found!