Until You’re Found.

This morning in church, it all came together.

There are some Sundays when the Lessons and the sermon are connected, but not overly so, and there are some Sundays when the material provided by Scripture “just won’t preach,” and you can tell that the priest would rather be fishing. [This is especially true when the lectionary gets to Matthew 19, the admonition against divorce.]  This morning was one of those lovely Sundays when it all worked, and the clergy of my church made the children’s lesson, the reading from Jeremiah, the gospel reading from Luke, the sermon, and all of the hymns mesh seamlessly.

Jeremiah is a ‘major’ prophet (a qualification based on the quantity of his work) from the late 600s-early 500s BCE. As so often happened in the OT, God was unhappy with the Israelites, because they just couldn’t stay faithful to him (they kept veering off to worship those beautiful, sexy Baals), and so he charged Jeremiah with prophesying their destruction.

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“Look, people….Yahweh says you gotta stop messing with the Baals and behave. We’ve been over this.”

So that was the crux of the OT reading, that God was going to destroy his chosen people. But then, there’s an opening, and a possibility: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. (Jer 4:27)  Hmm…so even in the face of all of this wanton idolatry and misbehavior, God still offered an out (in keeping with his promise to Noah to never again flood the Earth and destroy all of mankind) and left the door open: God wouldn’t make a ‘full end’ because he was willing to seek out those who wanted to return to living within the covenant.

After the reading from Jeremiah came the children’s lesson. The associate rector had asked an older gentleman in the church to be her sheep, and he donned a sheep hat and bleated pitifully, wandering around the church to great comic effect, as she told the kids the story of the shepherd who has 100 sheep, but loses one. This was the same parable in the Gospel reading from Luke, which tells the story of the lost sheep, as well as the lost coin.

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Good Lord, Mister Woolington! How’d you get down there?

In both cases, of course, a search ensues: the shepherd leaves the 99 other sheep in order to recover the lost one; the woman who has 9 other silver coins lights a lamp and sweeps her home to find the one coin she has lost. The point, as the sermon made so beautifully, is that what is lost must be found.

But here is where the sermon went that I found so interesting: speaking of the parable of the shepherd, my priest said, “Now, a good business plan would allow for the loss of one sheep out of one hundred. And morally, we could argue that one could be sacrificed for the safety of the majority. But for God, neither scenario is acceptable….the shepherd searches until the lost sheep is found, and the woman searches until the lost coin is recovered. The story is never over until what is lost has been found.”

I started thinking about the kids hearing this lesson, and how easy it is to believe, when you’re young and shiny and new and full of promise, that you are worth being sought, worth being searched for and recovered. And then I got to thinking about how very easy it is to believe, when you’re not quite so shiny and new, that you’ve depreciated over time, that your sins have compounded, and that the investment God made in you at the moment of your birth has given him back a really shitty return.

If you got lost today, would God even bother to look for you? Or would he kick back in his celestial easy chair and turn on Sunday Night Football instead?

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Can we assume God is a Saints fan?

From everything that Scripture tells us, the answer is that God wouldn’t stop searching until he’d found you and brought you home. And if you think about that — that whatever you’ve done in your past and whatever you are doing now and whatever you will do in the future, God still thinks you are worth his time and consideration — you can barely take it in. That’s unconditional love. That’s chesed — the amazing, relentless loyal love that God had for the Israelites, and that he has for us.

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Somedays, the threads of our lives are so knotted that it seems like they’ll never weave together in a way that makes sense.  And some days, everything seems to be working in harmony to craft a beautiful tapestry. Most days, though, the tapestry of our lives is a mixed bag: beautiful, but with some holes. Some frayed spots. Some colors that don’t match…. But every day, God believes that the tapestry of our lives is richly beautiful, a work of art, and worthy of being treasured.

If only we valued ourselves, and each other, as much as God values us…if only we could wrap ourselves in the knowledge that the tapestry of our lives, despite its flaws and weaknesses, is a divine work of art…

….what a wonderful life it would be!

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It’s good to know that you don’t have to claim Special Unicorn status to be worthy of God!

 

 

5 thoughts on “Until You’re Found.

  1. Interesting contradiction between a god who loves his people unconditionally but continuously threatens (and sometimes follows through) with annihilation. Not a model I would follow as a parent.

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    1. What???!! I’ve found threats of annihilation to be extremely effective with my kids! Kidding. And your point is very well taken. I think there is an argument to be made that the OT’s singular purpose is to tell the story of God’s people, and part of meeting that objective is to continually reinforce the notion that ultimately, God forgives and shows mercy. There’s a great deal of precedent for the destruction stories (e.g. the Flood), but they don’t include the mercy factor — so mercy is what made the god of the Israelites different (and better) than other gods, and what compelled the ancient Israelites for forgo other deities and move from polytheism to henotheism to, eventually, monotheism. That being said, I still think you should reconsider your stance on annihilation…perhaps for your hooligan yogis??!!

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  2. It’s a beautiful story without the annihilation part and I love how you captured that essence with insight and compassion. Do you think the evolution of these stories (and of God) speaks to a better human understanding of Him/Her or of a tendency to create God in our own image? More importantly, do you think a perfectly executed Half Moon pose should serve as an offering to an omnipotent yoga teacher who could strike it down at any point?

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    1. I think the baseline is always instructional; the stories are meant to teach us how to live with one another — which is, of course, what the ministry of Jesus is all about, too. So even though the OT God gets really angry and threatens (and sometimes enacts) destruction, the key element of mercy — as the society moved from poly to monotheistic — was to say, hey, here is this omnipotent god who created us and everything around us, and if HE can be merciful, so can you! As for my omnipotent yoga teacher…my half-assed half moons are an imperfect offering, but perhaps better than the charred carcass of a lamb?!!

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  3. I can’t help listening to an OT story without thinking that all these robed and bearded people really had no clue what was going on around them, and were attributing the confusion of daily living to the Really Big Bearded dude in the sky.

    “What the deuce, Ezekial? Why did God destroy our crops?”
    “Not sure, Bospherus, but I’ll bet it has to do with you coveting my wife’s ass again.”

    NOT that the common practice of planting the same crop again and again, and tilling the bejeezus out of the soil, lead to severe drainage issues in the fields. Or the common use of lead in metalware- especially cooking pots- which resulted in rampant illnesses, including lesions and aggressive behavior, I don’t see God being so ready to punish, as I do man attributing self-inflicted (albeit naively) misery to God. It’s like me stubbing my toe and then prostrating myself, begging His forgiveness because I know not who moveth the ottomon.

    Of course, this begs the truth of David v Goliath, and the latter’s likelihood of suffering from gigantism… what is great about the OT is the symbolism, which lends so well to multiple interpretations.

    My second favorite teacher in h.s. taught me her Golden Thread theory- how one’s life is woven and intertwined by stories, events and ideas that follow a theme. Just like you experienced in church. I hope it was Father Dave. I like that guy.

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