Tuesday, 14 June 2016
Sermon June 12, 2016 3rd after Trinity
When I read the Gospel appointed for today I immediately thought of the hymn ‘The Ninety and Nine were Safely Laid”. When I looked for it in the hymn book I could not find it. I thought that was quite strange because it was an old popular hymn in my childhood. However, as I was raised in the United Church I thought it might have been a United Church hymn and not an Anglican one. With a bit of perseverance the lost was found which is quite appropriate for the Gospel this morning. It turned out I was looking for it with the wrong words. I looked in the index under ‘The Ninety and Nine Were Safely Laid”. Well I eventually discovered the correct first line, ‘There Were Ninety and Nine That Safely Lay’ and behold a miracle—well perhaps only a minor one—it is in the hymn book #764.
Another hymn which is also quite appropriate for today is ‘Seek and You Shall Find’. That one was made popular by the Kingston Trio in the 1960’s. It is based on Matthew 7 verse 7. I didn’t expect to find it in the hymn book and I wasn’t surprised when it wasn’t—at least in my seeking. So perhaps a lesson for us from this is you need to seek in the right place and in the right way.
If we take the example from the parable in the Gospel passage the seeking by the shepherd and the woman were both successful. They first had to be aware that they were missing something. The shepherd knew his flock and realized that one was missing. Now for all of us who are not that familiar with sheep this seems to be something of a miracle. After all sheep all look pretty much the same to me. We can also assume that the shepherd, being uneducated in those days, did not know how to count.
He (I don’t know if there were women shepherds in those days) must have known each member of his flock intimately as an individual. Now the woman with the coin is a much more obvious situation to our minds. We can’t be sure if the woman was well off. She may have been poor—one commentary noted that the coins could have been her dowry. She has ten pieces of silver which would be quite a bit of money in those days. She would have valued each coin as being worth a lot. It is understandable that she would realize when one of the coins was missing. This would seem to be a more serious issue than with the shepherd who had 99 more sheep. He had lost 1% of his wealth rather than 10% and presumably would have beee used to losing some sheep regularly to wolves and other predators. And yet both searched for what was lost and their search was rewarded.
What can these examples say to us today? First we must know when something important is missing in our lives. Just as the shepherd and the woman knew they missed something of importance, we have to know what is missing. What is it that our lives are lacking? It is very easy to live day to day and assume that everything is how it should be or at least that it is the only way it can be. I believe that is one reason why people who were once regular church goers stop attending. They get out of the habit and don’t realize what they are missing. However, we can also come to church regularly and realize something is missing or perhaps feel that something is missing but not be aware what it is. There can be people that we enjoy being with. We can enjoy parts of the service—perhaps the music or the prayers or the parts of the liturgy. However, we may feel that there is something missing but they can’t really put their finger on what it is.
Beyond church our lives may go on and we may have everything that should make them satisfied. We have sufficient money like the woman in the Gospel. We have a comfortable place to live.
We can even have friends and acquaintances and activities to fill our days. And yet; we know something is missing. Unlike the shepherd and the woman with the coins we don’t know what it is that is missing.
So what is the answer? The key is to know—just as the shepherd and woman knew what they had. The shepherd knew his flock and the woman knew the thing she possessed. They knew what was valuable to them. How, then do we then know what is of true value to us? If we have never experienced it then it will be difficult. So how then do we search for something when we don’t know what it is? As I discovered in looking for the hymn you have to look in the right place and in the right way.
I also reflected last week in an email that when I first truly experience the Anglican worship I discovered I had come home. When I experienced it I knew it in my heart. I had realized I was missing something in worship but didn’t really know what it was until I experienced it. I believe that we all are seeking to find that sense of homecoming—of coming to that place where we are intended to be. We all want to return to our home with the divine—with a relationship with God that we know in our hearts is our true home. We have glimpses and hints of what that can be in some things we experience in our lives. We can have a hint of what that will be like in aspects of worship. We can experience that when we have companionship and close friendship. I believe the closest that most people get to what it will be like is when we fall in love. When we are in love we are living beyond ourselves; we are living totally for and with the other person. We know in our hearts what that relationship we are seeking can be like.
But it is truly seeing through a glass darkly as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”.
Once we know—at least have a glimpse—of what it is we are seeking then we can know where to look. We will have the right name of what it is that we are trying to find in our lives. We know that we are seeking our true home with our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. We can now seek to have a deeper relationship with God in all that God is and does. This may mean seeking God through scripture and prayer and meditation. It will, I hope, mean seeking it when we gather to worship in the name of Jesus Christ. It can also be in serving others as Jesus showed us. It can also mean being open to experiences of God that we find in the day to day aspects of life in all of God’s creation. It does mean that we have to have all of ourselves open to God—with our minds and bodies and spirit. If we are open to what is happening in life we will find the lost sheep or the lost coin and we will find our true home. Seek and ye shall find; Knock and the door will be opened; Ask and it shall be given. Amen