Homily for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)
Audio for today's homily
So… a lost sheep is found and the shepherd rejoices!
• Suppose you went home from Mass today
and found a lost sheep at your front door:
how happy would you be?
You’d probably be more shocked than happy
and you'd have a problem on your hands.
• And in an age when folks routinely
drop into a Tip Jar on a store counter
the change a clerk returns to them,
the idea of rejoicing over finding one lost coin
might not make much of an impression.
But such are the images in these two parables.
Now, the parables of Jesus always teach us something
about our relationship with God
and God’s relationship with us.
But don't too quickly jump to the conclusion that
like the shepherd and the woman in the gospel today,
God sometimes loses us -- that simply isn't true.
God never loses us. God never, ever loses us.
Not even for a fleeting moment do we ever step beyond
God’s loving watchful gaze on us
or apart from God's protective embrace.
More carefully than a loving mother
watches over her newborn child
does God watch over our every move,
our every joy, our every sorrow.
God does not lose us.
But sometimes, we lose sight of God:
when we think, when we feel, when we believe -
that we’ve lost God or, even worse,
that God has abandoned us.
Even as the shepherd and woman in the parable
searched for what each of them had lost,
so there are times
when we search just as diligently for God
who may seem to have gone away.
I notice that in these two parables
one of the lost items, the wandering sheep,
is a moving target;
while the other, the lost coin,
the coin sits still, hiding, until the seeker finds it.
When we think we’ve lost God, when God is hard to find,
it's often the case that we’re looking
only in the places where we expect and want God to be.
And it’s at just these times
that God may be drawing us closer to himself
to a new place, in a new way,
in a way we didn’t anticipate or expect -
perhaps in a way we didn’t ask for - or don’t want.
God is always moving in our lives:
always a few steps ahead of us
- and yet always right by our side.
Sometimes God may seem elusive, like that lost sheep,
playing hide and seek with the shepherd,
finally leading the shepherd
to a place where what it can be found.
At other times,
we’re the ones skipping and running all around,
sometimes selfishly, sometimes sinfully,
and sometimes just too busy to sit still,
too busy, too anxious, too afraid to open our eyes
to find God quietly sitting right beside us
- right where we are.
And sometimes God is always waiting to be found,
like a lost coin,
within arm’s reach, as close as my hand and heart.
God never loses one of us
but he rejoices every time we find him,
every time we discover:
that we are, like a coin, in the palm of his hand;
that we’re being carried, like a sheep, in his arms.
that wherever we may roam God goes ahead of us
and walks beside us, and has our back,
never losing sight of us.
No matter how far we may have wandered;
no matter how dark the place
in which we find ourselves lost;
no matter how deeply convinced we may be
that God has lost us:
we are never outside the Lord’s embrace.
When we gather at the Lord’s Table,
we come looking God:
in one another, in the scriptures, in the sacrament.
Like a shepherd, the Lord gathers us together
and rejoices in our being here.
Like that hidden coin, God waits for us to find him:
the Lord, the still place in our hurried, harried lives
waits to be found…
This altar, the Lord's Table, is the place where,
over and over again,
we find that however lost we thought we were
God comes to find us, desiring communion with us:
here, in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist
the Lord has hidden himself in plain sight,
precisely so that we might find him
and that we ourselves be found, in his grace.
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