One way to interpret this parable is: lost, found, party. Amen.
But today, I want to focus on the numerous times we find joy and rejoicing in this gospel passage. First, I want to ask a question. Who all is rejoicing and experiencing joy in this passage? Let’s look at the reading. First, the shepherd rejoices when he finds the lost sheep and calls on his friends to rejoice with him. They’re gonna party!
Looking at the story of the lost coin. It doesn’t say, but we can assume the woman rejoiced when she found the lost coin. She, too, calls on her friends to rejoice with her because of the coin she found. They’re gonna party too!
But who else rejoices in each of these stories? In the first, we’re told, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” In the second, it says, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God…” If heaven is rejoicing and the angels are rejoicing, you can be sure that God is rejoicing.
Did you ever think of God getting emotional over us? When we are hurting and suffering, God feels that too. Then God is like the shepherd going after the one lost sheep to prevent the sheep from getting snatched up by a coyote or hurt in some other way. God holds and comforts us, rejoicing in finding us.
In the book of the prophet Zephaniah, in the Old Testament, we read, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Did you ever picture God like that?
God is also like the woman diligently searching for the lost coin. Do you ever think of God in female terms? There are places in the Old Testament when female language is used for the Holy One, whom we tend to think of in solely male terminology.
Have any of you ever read the book, The Shack, or seen the movie? In it, one way God is portrayed is as a black woman. Do you have trouble with that? God’s character is multi-faceted, like the jewel I mentioned earlier.
Concerning the coin, the woman was searching for. It’s not like a penny or even less, an agorot. When I lived with my children and first husband in Bethlehem, Israel’s economy had tanked. The shekel, Israel’s currency, was worth little. The smallest unit of the shekel was the agorot. It was worth so little that you would see people throwing them on to the ground when they’d gotten them as change.
Unlike the agorot, this coin was part of the woman’s dowry. It would give her something to fall back on if she was widowed. “Losing one of them would be a disaster for the whole family… Dowries were not only about money…but more crucially, [they] were about public honor and status. Marriages were public arrangements in which a family's honor was placed before the community. Losing even one coin was losing the honor of the family (David Ewart). It’s no wonder she was so happy to find the coin.
Can we rejoice with our God when the lost are found? They may not be the kind of people we’re used to being around. They may be more than a little rough around the edges. But God has found them. God rejoices in them and invites us to do so as well.
God's message to us, through these parables, is this: “You are mine. You have always been mine. You were created in my image and are therefore connected to me. And because you are mine, I will seek you out wherever you are and try to bring you back home—because I love you so much!” Can we be open to that kind of amazing love? Can we let down our defenses and self-doubts long enough simply to receive it, to be engulfed and swept away by this love?“ (Julie Perry, Review and Expositor, 109, Spring 2012).
I like the way Cory Asbury expresses this love in his song, “Reckless Love.” The chorus is:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the 99
And I couldn't earn it
I don't deserve it, still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Cory Asbury, “Reckless Love,” https://www.google.com/search?q=reckless%20love%20lyrics%20cory%20asbury&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1-m
David Ewart, holytextures.com
Julie Perry, Review and Expositor in pulpitfiction.com