•Exodus 32: 7-11 + 1 Timothy 1:12-17 + Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10•
Weekly Scripture Readings:24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A friend of mine often misplaces his car keys or his smart phone. Generally he finds the smart phone. He simply gets someone to call him. It is more difficult to find the car keys. Once he left his phone in my kitchen. I found it for him when it rang about three in the morning. If that is a familiar experience for you, you probably recall the relief in finding the lost article. I remember a time when I was lost. My first parish assignment was to St. Ann’s in Butte. In early autumn I went hunting with a guy in the mountains east of Butte. When it was time to return to our car, I was totally confused and it took some time for him to convince me he did know the way to the car. Feeling lost in the mountains is a very unsettling feeling!! I recall the relief in finding the car.
Luke introduces our text today with this information. “All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling and saying “this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Unfortunately most commentaries focus on that introduction. We hear “tax collectors and sinners” and think of “moral fault” or “evil-doers.
I ask you to set that aside so we can listen to what these parables tell us. The sheep and the coin simply are “lost.” There is no implication of “moral fault” or “evil doing.” Being “lost” is simply a condition, a situation.
Our ancestors looked up at the sky, saw the immensity of blue and felt tiny. They looked up at a clear night sky as I did in the Sahara desert. With no ambient light, the night sky is brilliant, filled with rocks of fire that we call stars. I felt tiny. For our ancestors that was the extent of it.
Today the scientific information available to us about the enormity, age and evolutionary dynamism of the cosmos is beyond our comprehension. Earth, is one tiny rock in the galaxy we call “The Milky Way. Our galaxy is only one of 300 billion galaxies in the Cosmos!! We share life on this planet with nearly nine billion other human beings. In spite of, or perhaps because of the hi-tech culture in which we live, the sense, the experience of community among us has diminished or even broken down. People easily feel tiny and “lost.”
Certainly in some way our ancient ancestors felt tiny and “lost.” Now since the Twin Towers were destroyed by human violence fifteen years ago it is perhaps even easier to feel “lost.” Today many among us do! A Jungian psychologist told me the proliferation of tattoos is probably a way for many to overcome the sense of being “lost;” of saying, “pay attention to me. I am important.” In mid-July I spent a wonderful day hiking in Glacier Park. It was the first time I ever felt fear in the Park. It was not a fear of Grizzly bears. I encountered three separate individuals packing a gun in a holster! Why do people need to own and carry guns? It may help them cope with the experience of being “lost” but – it did not help me!!