God is deeply in love with each of us. Not just humanity in general, but each and every person. To make this truth about God plain, Jesus tells two parables, about a lost sheep and a lost coin, and about how their owners searched and searched until they found even just one that was missing.
A true story: A little girl was looking at the things in her mother's jewelry box. One item particularly fascinated her â an opal that had once been set in a ring, but had come loose from its finding. The little girl liked the opal a lot. She liked how it sparkled, how its iridescence gave it different colors depending on how she held it and in what kind of light. She liked looking at this opal so much that she took it out of the box and carried it around, until she became more interested in something else and she lost the small stone.
When she told her mother, her mother began the most thorough search of their house the girl had ever seen. Her mother looked under rugs and between the sofa cushions. She swept. She looked everywhere. She was so energetic in her search that the little girl knew that what was lost must truly be precious. The little girl had no idea her mother owned such a treasure. Did her mother own precious gems? Was she really the daughter of royalty?
She asked her mother, "Is this the most precious jewel?"
Her mother said, "No, there are jewels worth far more, that cost more. But this one was given to me by my great aunt, and since she gave it to me, it's precious to me and I want to find it."
Jesus says God is like a woman who, when she loses one of her ten silver coins, does not say, âWell, I still have nine others, that will just have to do.â No, the woman turns her house upside down until she finds the one lost coin.
A certain parish has an endowment for outreach that was started from found coins. Two parishioners started it and others joined in. When they find change on the ground, it goes into the endowment for outreach. They collect their found coins during the year in a jar, and then put them in the Easter offering so this found money can be used to serve people who need it. People who participate get really excited about finding money. Sometimes the money is easily accessible: you see a penny and pick it up. Sometimes one has to be a bit more adventurous. One parishioner reported riding a bicycle down a busy street and seeing a bright shiny quarter. A whole quarter for the jar! Should she stop in the middle of the road? In traffic? What risks should she take?
Thankfully, God has no such limitations. God is like a woman who will turn her house upside down to find even one coin. God is like a shepherd who will search high and low for even one sheep. There are no bramble bushes, no deep ravines, no alley ways, or hidden corners, or closets into which God will not go to find those who are lost. Even just one.
In the parable, the woman is so excited at finding her one lost coin that she calls all her friends. âWe have to celebrate! I found my coin that was lost!â
And just like that, says Jesus, the angels of God rejoice when even one person who is lost is found, when even one person repents, comes home, allows God to embrace them and say, âYou are mine. I love you. I would search and search the whole world if I had to.â Even for just one.
Jesus told these parables because at the time, a group of people were grumbling about what kind of people Jesus was busy finding, what kind of people Jesus was inviting to the table and eating with. These grumbling people were religious people, sure that they themselves were safely in God's fold, safely deposited into God's change purse.
Maybe they didn't realize that they too were lost ones that God was trying hard to gather up. Did they know that God was turning the world upside down to find tax collectors and sinners as well as good religious people, to claim us all as God's own sheep, God's own precious coins?
That's what God did. From the beginning, God's Spirit has been sweeping through the world seeking people to rejoice in belonging to God, whether they deserved it or not. And in Jesus, God really did do something to turn the whole world upside down. The God of the universe came among us as a human baby named Jesus, who lived and died as one of us, stretched his arms out to us from the cross to welcome the lost, the least, the losers. Even just one.
God still yearns to gather us all up, so that not even one more person ever feels lost, as if they have to do it on their own, as if they're not worth a cent, because even just one is precious to God.
Maybe it's significant that when the woman finds the coin that had been lost, she throws a party for all her friends. Hear the irony: the woman may be thorough, but she's not miserly. She may be meticulous, but she is not a wizard of home economics. She found one coin, and then spent who knows how many to throw a party! Is it irony â or is it grace?
If we are the coins in the story, so precious to God that even just one is worth everything, and the occasion of finding just one is cause for great celebration, then we are God's coins, and our lives are to be spent in the cause of seeking and finding and celebrating. God doesn't just tuck us away in some safe-deposit box, a heavenly coin collection waiting for our value to increase. God says, âLet's have a party now.â
Even just one means everything to God. Even just one is cause for great celebration. Even just one who offers himself of herself to be spent for God's purposes is a great blessing for the whole neighborhood.
In our worship this morning we practice God's economics. We gather, acknowledging that all we are and all we have comes from God, belongs to God, is loved by God, can be given and offered and spent for God. We offer our time, our talents, our money, and the produce of our hands and our minds in God's service here in this place, out in the neighborhood, and in the world. Our ministries are varied, but each one is valuable, each one is important to God, because even just one enables us to continue God's work of seeking and finding and celebrating.
Even just one. Even just you. Even just me. Precious to God. And precious here, in God's house, in God's family.