The Value of Change

 

[Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”]

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:1-10, NRSV

One silver coin out of ten, so small and worth so much. The woman careless to lose this small silver fortune. Would I call together friends and neighbors if I’d lost and found something so valuable? Would you?

I wonder what the pharisees and scribes thought of this coin parable, standing in the company of tax collectors and assorted sinners. Losing, seeking, and finding the silver coin wouldn’t be something to tell friends and neighbors – at least have the sense to keep quiet about the whole thing. Such a silly story for a rabbi to tell.

I don’t wonder so much about what the tax collectors and sinners thought of these two lost and found parables. They know they are the lost sheep and the lost coin. But something else must have dawned on everyone there: the lost coin and the wayward sheep were so precious and valuable that a woman and a shepherd risked reputation and life to bring them home.  Jesus claims the angels in heaven break out the cake and party hats to celebrate such a homecoming.

Why? Because the lost aren’t strangers or outsiders; they are the sheep of my flock and the same silver as I am. Perhaps I can only discover and accept such a big, holy truth when it’s wrapped in a parable.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

4 thoughts on “The Value of Change”

  1. Recently, I have received countless blessings by putting myself in the sandals of those Jesus is addressing–whether disciples (viz. Peter) or religious officials. One blessing that has come from this is knowing how much I am like them and realizing that the “insiders” of today have had 2,000 years of tradition in much the same way as the Jews in Jesus’ time–AND how today’s “church people” can be just as obstinate and recalcitrant as any Pharisee or scribe. So rather than judging through hindsight, I can be there to see myself among the lost—or at least the “temporarily misplaced”.

    1. It makes me wonder whether Jesus was telling the story to tell the pharisees that the “lost” (the tax collectors and sinners) were valuable, or whether he was telling the tax collectors and sinners that the “lost” (the pharisees) also had value – even if they didn’t understand the story or the storyteller…

  2. Interesting–never thought of the differentiation of the “lost”. Perhaps Jesus best explains it when we read on about the prodigal–“this my son…”

    1. True. In the prodigal son, the younger brother is found after being lost; the older brother who never left is still lost, choosing to remain separated from the celebration, his father, and his brother. Wheels within wheels – the wonderful depth that defines a parable…Peace, Johnna

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