Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Sermon

It occurs to me that there is probably a way to copy my whole sermon from the computer at church rather than re-typing it, but I haven't figured it out yet. My next project.

Note on sermon: please visualize a large cardboard box, in the middle of the chancel, with a sign on it: "lost and found", and overfilled with items. The first paragraph is given not from the pulpit, but from in back of the box.

Lost and Found

Recently I've been looking around in our church's "lost and found" basket. Is everyone here aware that our church has a lost and found basket? Every once in awhile I mislay something I'm fond of -- a nice pen, a coffee mug, a book I've been reading -- and I check out the lost and found here at church to see if anyone else found it and returned it. I have never found the item I'm looking for in the lost and found.... But I have found a lot of item items, really quite a variety, some small things and probably easy to replace, like this box of Pampers wipes, and some, I thought, anyway, quite valuable -- like this cell phone I found. Now there are also some things that are valuable to some people but not to others: when I saw this white sheet, I immediately thought, Oh, I know what I could use that for! But I don't have a current use for a mini etch o sketch or a matchbox truck, or even, sadly, one glove. One person might not have any use for a notebook like this, and another might think "wow! this is just want I need!" and there might be an item here in this box which would cause great rejoicing for someone. You never know.

What do all these things have in common? They are all things which have been lost but have not yet been claimed by someone. They are "lost and found" but they haven't been "found" by someone who is willing to take them home and claim them as their own -- not the umbrella or the winter cap or the sweatshirts. They haven't been found by the original owner -- or at least, by someone else willing to call them "useful" or "valuable" to them. It could be that these items were just not so valuable to the person who lost them -- or it might be that the person was a guest here -- and even from out of town -- and just can't afford to fly back to look for whatever the lost items was.

So what does the church's "lost and found" have to do with our gospel lesson today? What does the story of the "lost sheep" and the "lost coin" have to do with a box full of "stuff" that it appears no one wants? At first glance -- nothing. We clearly have a case of a sheep that is so valuable that the shepherd is willing to leave the others to find it and return it to the flock. and we have a story of a coin that is so valuable that the woman won't cease sweeping the floors and searching the shelves until she find it. And then there is the party afterwards. That's important too. The shepherd and the woman are so overjoyed that they found the lost item, it is so valuable to them, that they throw a big party to celebrate. "In the same way, there is joy in heaven over every sinner who repents."

But I think this box and the story do have something in common. and I want to start with the story of the woman and the coin to show what they have in common. Of course, it's a little easier in this case, because the "coin" and all the things in this box are inanimate objects. the story says the woman has ten "silver coins." In Greek, those would be "drachmas" -- each would be equal to about a day's wages. That's actually not a lot of money. To lose one drachma would not be a huge tragedy -- for some people. for a rich person, a lost drachma, a lost coin like this one, would not be a cause for worry. But this woman only has ten. It's probably her whole savings -- maybe even her dowry, the money she would take into her marriage. So the drachma isn't so valuable, but it's valuable TO HER. That's important. the one coin that she searches and searches for may not be valuable to everyone, but it is valuable to the woman. In that way, it is like the items in the "lost and found" which are valuable to someone -- but not to everyone.

But what about the 1 sheep lost among 100? That's a little more puzzling. One hundred sheep would have been a huge amount in those days. It would be three times as many sheep as most people had. so it would be hard to imagine a farmer leaving his 99 sheep to go after just one lonely and lost sheep. It is only 1 100th of his flock! One sheep- would NOT be that valuable -- like MOST of the things in the lost and found box, that no one took the time to come looking for. It is much more prudent to rejoice and stick with the 99 sheep he has than to go out looking for one sheep. It's actually a surprise that he even misses it. But he does. The shepherd misses that one lost sheep, and leaves the 99 to go out and look for it. So when Jesus says, "which of you would do this..." actually probably none of them would do it. None of them would risk 99 sheep for the sake of one. Just like hardly anyone comes back to find what they lost in the lost and found.

To the Pharisees, the tax collectors and sinners are just like most of the items in the lost and found, just like that little silver coin, or that one stupid sheep that got itself lost. they are not worth bothering with. They are not righteous. They may be called "sinners" simply because they are poor, and they don't have the means to measure up to all of the requirements of the law. to fulfill the law, at least one of the things you have to do is give. If you can't give, you aren't righteous in the eyes of the law. OR they might be considered sinful because of their lifestyle. They live a less than upright life (and you can use your imagination about what that might mean). And of course the tax collectors were sinners plus. They were working for the enemy: Rome. But they were also cheating their own people, collecting more than they needed to in order to line their own pockets. Why should Jesus have a party with them?
Why should Jesus hang around with them? Why should he go looking for them? They are not worth his time. They not that valuable -- just like some of the "stuff" in this box.

There are people like that around us, too. People who don't seem too valuable -- at least in the eyes of the world. Maybe it's because they're poor -- people who are homeless, and live at the edges of our society. Or they're immigrants, struggling to get by. Or maybe it's because of their "lifestyle.' They've done something or things that others don't approve of. They don't live a righteous life. For some reason of another they just don't measure up. They're not worth bothering about -- at least in the eyes of the world. Tax collectors and sinners. Not righteous. That's one way of looking at it -- Or -- you can look at it another way -- they are people who have not yet been claimed by One who would find them useful -- and valuable. People who are no valuable in the eyes of the world -- but who are valuable to God. Like notebooks and sweatshirts and umbrellas and one glove -- ordinary things, small things -- ordinary people, small people -- lost and waiting to be found. Like you and me.

I heard a story recently a bout a woman who lost something very valuable, very precious to her. She was coming home late at night, after an evening out doing errands. It was early in December, so maybe it was even Christmas shopping. There was a light sprinkle of snow covering the ground. As she reached for the door, her wedding ring caught on the edge of the door frame, and the diamond popped out and fell into the snow. How could she find such a small item in the middle of the snow-covered yard, in the dark? She felt panicked, but almost without thinking she grabbed two flashlights, and began to shine them throughout the yard. And do you think she would give up without finding the diamond? No -- she searched and searched until she found it -- and she found it because the light of the flashlight made it glitter, even in the midst of the snow. and you know what else she said? She said that it wasn't the cost of the diamond that made her search, although I'm sure it cost some money. It was what it meant to her: that's what made her search. She said it was a miracle. I agree with her. Maybe she had a party. I'll be she wanted to.

My friends, in God's eyes, every single one of us here is a diamond. God was willing to come here to search and to find us, to get down in the dark and the snow and cold to find us and to claim us as God's own. God came down to the darkness and the coldness of our world, to find us and to call us his own -- diamonds -- even thought we're really more like -- the one glove, the notebook, the umbrella -- all of the items in the lost and found, all of the items that it seems nobody wants. God came here to find us and to claim us and also -- to put us to use. God calls us to go out and find others -- those who are not here yet -- and to get out our flashlights -- and to go out into the dark world and to claim them as God's own -- to call them diamonds. God calls us to find the lost items in the "lost and found" and to rejoice and celebrate, put the tablecloth on the table and have a party (coincidentally, one of the items in the lost and found is a tablecloth).

And then, may it be said of us, just as it is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, "these people welcome sinners, and they eat and drink with them." AMEN


Songbird said...

Nice, Diane.
You can email your sermon home next time; no need to re-type, just attach the document or cut and paste.

Jiff said...


emmapeelDallas said...

Now, I confess, I don't attend church anymore and haven't for a long time...and yet I enjoyed this sermon very, very much.

Thank you, Diane.


Diane said...

that means a lot, e.

P.S. an after-thought said...

If you're talking about retyping it to get it in a blog, there is a way to email it to blogger (blogspot). For the address to do that, go to blogger dashboard, settings, email, and look at mail to blogger address. That will let you chose part of the address so that you can post from an email.

That works OK, except that you have to go to the edit feature to put the labels on it.

Diane said...

wow, who knew! I still have a lot to learn!

MayB MayB Not said...

Another good sermond, Diane.

(I'm for the KISS method for copying sermon, highlight & copy into email, then highlight and copy from email into your post.) :) Serena

MayB MayB Not said...

typo alert .. .good Sermon.

Barbara B. said...

agreed -- another good one!

FranIAm said...

I really enjoyed this a lot Diane. Excellent tie in to the scriptures and to life. What preaching is about.

Thanks so much for sharing.

And I'd vote for the email cut and paste version, but that is me. Any tech skills I seem to have are a complete and total fluke!!!

LawAndGospel said...

Or you could save it onto a jump drive and then bring it home and open it on the home computer incase you wanted to do any other tweaking. I love the little memory stick jump drives for bringing things to and from places. I also really sermon. I feel like I got the benefit of three- the one in my teaching parish, the one my husband told me about from my home parish and yours- I happen to like yours the best.

LawAndGospel said...

PS- my post is perhaps an example of editing. Meant to say I really liked the sermon.;)

Grandmère Mimi said...

My thought from the technologically challenged: copy and paste the sermon from WordPerfect or whatever you use to type it into the computer at church to your Blogger new post.

Now that business has been taken care of, I'll go read the sermon. First things first, you know. ;o)

Grandmère Mimi said...

Whoever, whatever we are, sinners all, we are precious as diamonds in God's eyes. That's a beautiful analogy, Diane.

Go and do likewise and look upon each person whom you encounter as precious as a diamond.

Rowan The Dog said...

Diane, you are starting to be one of my regular sermon stops. Thanks for another good one, and challenging. Adjusting my own vision so that the diamonds become visible sounds like another way of saying seek and serve Christ in all persons... (That's an Episcopalian thing, I don't know if Lutherans have that or not. But you can see how it makes your sermon resonate for me.)

BTW - Fred Wight says that these coins were sewn into a head cap and that to lose one had an evil meaning and would be a great shame. Don't know about that "evil meaning" part.

and thanks,


Diane said...

hadn't heard about the head cap thing, either, Lindy. more studying! (when I have time)