Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
This morning finds Jesus, once again, eating with sinners and telling stories. There are two stories in our reading today. In the first there is a man who has 100 sheep. When one went missing he went looking for it and brought it home. Then he had a big party. The next story is about a woman. She had ten coins. One of the coins went missing. She lit a lamp, swept the house, and searched until she found it. After she found the coin she had a big party because she was happy.
You’d think that the lectionary would group these stories together with the parable of the lost son. We only have the first two this week, and that actually works as the parable of the lost son is different in some important ways. Today we will only deal with the two parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.
There is a statement at the end of each parable about repentance. It says that in Heaven there will be more joy over one who repents than over the found lamb or the found coin. Taken together with the story of the lost son and the statement about repentance some people think that the stories themselves are about repentance. They are not. Coins and lambs can not repent, after all. The statement that there will be rejoicing in Heaven about one who repents is an add-on. The thing we should notice in these stories is that something was missing, it was not whole.
It might not be easy to notice that one of our 100 sheep is missing. You’d have to count all the way to 99 before you realised that number 100 was not there. It might be a little easier to notice that one out of ten coins was missing. Either way, wholeness would not have happened if the shepherd and the woman had not taken notice of what was not present.
This reading invites us to notice what is not there. Who no longer shows up on Sunday morning, who is not there for Christmas Day, whose absence should we notice? Are there kindnesses we used to extend, little things that no longer happen?
In some traditions silver is the colour of reflection. The silver coins invite us to further reflection. We might be able to notice a missing person, or something like that. But, can we see the things missing from our interior lives? What about the vitality that used to characterise our prayer life, or the passion that used to motivate our good works? If the passion and vitality are gone, do we notice?
The shepherd and the woman remind us to look for what is not there. Maybe we should be like them and go looking for what is lost, maybe something else will emerge, maybe some things should be allowed to drift away. Either way, it’s important to notice.
Linda McMillan is writing from Central Texas
©Linda Diane McMillan, 2019