Pentecost 14C - Luke 15:1-10

St Luke 15:1- 10 (NIV)

 15       Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I have here ten $2 coins. I usually keep them in the ashtray in my car for that emergency when I’m travelling – to pay for parking, a hot chocolate late at night on the way back from Auckland, or the like. They don’t take up much space and help keep me from being embarrassed if I don’t have enough money on my EFTPOS card.

Every now and then, I check to make sure there are 10 coins as $20 is a handy sum to carry around for emergencies.

(What’s that you say, I’ve only got nine coins? That means one is lost. I will have to find it as I might need it when I go to Auckland early this evening. Look for the lost coin. Ask for help. Find coin. That’s good now that we’ve found it, I’ll be covered for this evening if anything is needed on the trip back from Auckland.)

You’ve already figured out that my emphasis today is on the last three verses of our text from Luke 15 – the parable of the lost coin.

Jesus told three parables to the tax collectors and sinners who were gathering to hear Him and to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. There was, first of all, the parable of the lost sheep, then the lost coin in this week’s Gospel reading.

And then, there’s the parable of the lost sons in next Sunday’s lectionary Gospel reading (we won’t be using that next week as we’ll celebrate
St Matthew’s day, which actually falls on Saturday 21st September.)

Our main emphasis today is the parable of the lost coin – so that it’s fresh in our minds, let’s read it again from verse eight to ten: “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The two groups, those who knew they were outside the law of God and those who were self-righteous in their pursuit of holiness, had different motives for listening to Jesus.

The latter group had muttered amongst themselves that Jesus had fellowship with unholy people – people who were not honest in their business affairs and who “lived in sin” – both people who made deliberate choices to live outside God’s morality and those who had drifted away from the piety the Jewish religion demanded.

Jesus had an audience of people who wanted to hear what he had to say – some seeking His wisdom – to hear what was in His message for them – and others seeking to condemn Him and those to whom He brought the good news.

We can speculate on why Jesus used the example of a woman, who had 10 coins and who had lost one. It may be, as posits the Rev. Dr Michael Eschalbach, that Jesus uses the example of the woman so that women don’t think that the parables don’t apply to them.

     A more likely possibility is that a woman often had her dowry of coins made into a head band, where-as a man would have had a moneybag and been less likely to lose a coin. She would know where here coins were all the time and could be kept safe. If she lost one, she would know immediately and could search for it.

Yet another possibility is that these coins were her ‘security for the future’ in case her husband died – you might say they were her insurance policy.

While the parable preceding the one about the coins “contrasts the ninety-nine (sheep) with the one (sheep), the smaller ratio between the nine coins and the lost coin highlights the concern of the woman and her persistence in looking for it.”

This coin is of real value to her.

We see the extent to which the woman will go to find the lost coin. She lights as lamp, burning valuable oil. Her home was probably dark as most homes had no windows – the light would help her find the coin as the light would be reflected by the coin.

She sweeps the earthen floor in case it is amongst the detritus on the floor, searching carefully until she finds the missing coin. We see how diligent and how concerned the woman is for the lost coin – this missing coin is of primary importance – just as the lost sinner is to God.

Jesus is, of course, the seeker. His priority is to find the lost for whom He died on the cross. Jesus is quite pointed in telling this parable to both obvious sinners and those who thought they were righteous – both groups represent the lost coin (and are also represented by the lost sheep of the previous parable in verses three to seven).

While the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who have an arrogant loveless attitude to the fallen and disenfranchised, are also being addressed by Jesus who wants all to see that they were all once lost but now can be found and can celebrate together.

          There is the judgement prescribed in today’s Old Testament reading in Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 where God describes His people as being lost: …they do not know Me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding.

         Do we know God? I mean really “know” God, in the deepest sense – that is, not just having a knowledge of God, but having a living relationship with Him where we understand and respond to what Jesus has done for us when He died on the cross?

Do we understand that Jesus wants us to be like the woman who lit her lamp, so we too have our lamps lit seeking out those who are lost?

Is our faith lost or in danger of being lost? Are we aware of a fellow Christian (or Christians) who are wandering off from their living relationship with Jesus or who has been lost for some time through making bad choices in life, no longer worshipping, disregarding God’s Word, grace and wisdom?

It was pointed out to me recently that the parable of the lost sheep, in verses three to seven, is about one percent of the church who know they are lost and need to be found while the 99 per cent left in the pasture don’t know that they are lost, because they are self-righteous – they don’t think they are lost, and need to be taken home.

It was also pointed out to me that the one coin is 10 per cent of the whole, which had been entrusted to the church to be cared for – but was neglected and ended up lost. In both cases the lost has been found.

The main point of these parables is that Jesus shares the happiness of God the Father with all who are found as Jesus tells us in verse 10: …there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”– do we rejoice as the Father does over the lost sheep and the found coin?

If God is rejoicing in heaven, surely, we have a role to play as found sinners who have repented. Let’s rejoice in the presence of God’s angels and all repentant sinners.

Let’s worship together regularly, giving thanks that Jesus has found each of us – that He brings us together to an eternal banquet shared here on earth with the reception of Holy Communion and fulfilled eternally in heaven with the angels.

Jesus wants His flock, His community, His valuable possessions, you and me and all who are still to be found to revel in the “joy of the Lord.”

Amen.