Our image on the front of the pewsheet this week is of a needle in a haystack. Now, when I name it as such everyone can see the needle and understand the concept of looking very hard for something and struggling to find it.
Our reading this morning from Luke brings us two of a series of three stories or parables about lost things. The third parable we all know very well – The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother – and the first of these we explored a bit a few weeks ago when we read it Matthew’s gospel.
Most theologians would agree that all of the parables in this section of Luke give us images of God and God’s actions in the world. We have the image of God being the shepherd who will not rest until he finds the lost sheep, and then when he does gathers others to him to rejoice in the finding. We also have the image of God as the woman who when she loses one of her 10 coins lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds it. Again, when the lost has been found, others are gathered to help her rejoice in the finding. Both of these parables are reasonably well known but both of these images of God are very different.
Jesus tells these parables in response to a group of people, namely and scribes and the Pharisees who resented his inclusive welcome to all. Sinners and tax collectors are particularly named here, but we know that Jesus’ welcome extended far wider than just these two groups of people. In fact, you could say that all were sinners, even the groups who were not happy with Jesus’ actions. These leaders were focused on how Jesus’ attention on those deemed undeserving undermined his authority in their view. And so we get these parables that shift the focus to the expectations of those in authority to seek the lost, and the joy experienced when the lost one is returned to community. Today in worship we will be celebrating a new member of our community here. Little Abigail is definitely not considered lost, but the fact that she is becoming part of us, is indeed worth the joy and rejoicing that we hear of in our reading.
I believe our focus for today is one of rejoicing. Rejoicing of our community with Nick and Rachel as well as friends and family as they join with us to formally welcome Abigail.
Along with this rejoicing I believe that another focus point that comes from our reading is God’s orientation as the seeker, the one who will not rest until the lost is found. But the burden of seeking the lost is not solely ours. We are the ones who get to rejoice in God’s work among us. Our work involves preparing ourselves and our community to receive those God brings in and figure out a way to work together in this new world that we are inhabiting.
Baptism is the church receiving another member into its fold. This receiving brings joy, and the joy of God is Good News!