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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 24, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
September 12, 2010

Luke 15:1-10

I remembered my friend’

We probably wouldn’t worry about a five-cent piece rolling behind the bed or the desk. But the coin in the parable – the drachma – was worth much more than that to a first-century woman. It may well have been part of her dowry sewn into her head covering, and worth more than a day’s wages for an unskilled labourer. Looking for the coin in a dark, one-roomed house with no windows was no fun. The Jewish Talmud says: “The one who studies the law is like a person, who having lost a coin or necklace in a house, lights many lamps until it is recovered.”

When I last reflected on this text, I asked whether Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose recently published letters reveal an anxious searching (over fifty years) for the God she believed she’d lost, might, in the Spirit of the woman who searches, be an example of attending to love’s task – with terrible humility and faithfulness.

At Thursday night’s Bible Study, however, the conversation took a different turn, and I was led to reflect on experiences of being found, being sought after, being cared for, restored …

I remembered my friend, Corey. I met Corey one summer at a Disabled Youth Camp. It was my one and only experience of a Christian club activity on campus. I signed up for the particular camp months beforehand – and then, when the day arrived to head off to the Mountains for a week, I was woefully unprepared.

Corey was one of many kids in a wheel-chair. There were also kids who were deaf and blind, kids who couldn’t communicate with words, kids in walking frames and with unsteady gaits. I remember feeling shocked, and then I remember Corey choosing me to be his cabin leader; Corey choosing me to wheel him around, feed him and shower him; Corey choosing me to design and construct KISS badges for him and all the other KISS fans on the camp! I was popular on that camp largely because I knew how to draw the KISS faces with perfect make-up and hair-styles.

Even afterwards, Corey chose me to be his friend – and he’d phone quite often. We’d go bowling or to the movies – my own family and friends were drawn into the friendship ¬–and there was even a big KISS concert a few years back: my sister, Debbie, me, Corey and his wife, Michelle, who, it turns out, is the highest ranking Gene Simmons fan in the KISS Army. She went crazy when Gene ate fire. She flipped her communication board when Gene threw back his head, fake blood spewing, the front row splattered.

Corey, in effect, found me as a friend. And he made every effort to maintain the friendship. He could ask the most candid questions – and he knew me well. As I remember these things I feel his absence and my neglect of him. I feel that I need to send him a message, to reconnect with my friend. He probably won’t hold it against me, either.

For it strikes me, most of all, that whenever Corey would make an effort to find me he’d never stress that he’d put in all this effort. He’d never remind me that I hadn’t called. He’d never express resentment that I was busy doing something else or seeing someone else. He’d be happy that we were going somewhere or that I said I’d come over.

We say that in every relationship, at any one time, someone is doing the heavy lifting. I used to lift Corey in and out of his chair, but it wasn’t me doing the heavy lifting. And it’s true that I benefitted from his care – other people thought I was a good person because I was helping him. Thus, I was found, included, empowered. At my ordination at the Balmain Uniting Church in 1998, he was there, of course; excited, of course.

According to the prophet Ezekiel (34:11), YHWH declares: “I myself will search for my sheep; I will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when their flocks are scattered in every direction, so I will search for my sheep and rescue them.”

The shepherd and the poor woman lose, search, find what is lost, call their friends and neighbours, and throw a big party. Luke stresses the joy that is experienced when someone regains something that has been lost.

In Jesus’ context, those who are lost are people who employ dubious business methods and avoid any form of religion that could bother their lives. The tax agents and sinners represent the outcast and the poor who respond positively to Jesus. They eat with him and respond to him. In the ancient world table fellowship, like hospitality, symbolised spiritual unity. Their opponents are devout people who impose great sacrifices on themselves and others in order to serve God. Jesus simply acts out the parable he is telling. The New Testament scholar Eta Linneman, writes: “There is a direct line between Jesus’ parable and his death.” His parables were shocking in so many ways. He acted out the parables he told.

Through his encounters with people, Jesus expressed the nature of God. God is the one who seeks after us and rejoices in our being found and restored. And God invites us to be people like that – people after God’s own nature in all our reflections and interactions.

Let’s complete the homily together. There are little “jewels” “hidden” in the earth here on the altar-table and you’re invited to “find” one and to recall being “found” or rescued or taking part in the lifting up of the good … Amen.