What do you think of when you see this broom? Maybe you think of cleaning up your sidewalks and porches. Now that summer is coming to a close, I’ve noticed that trees are dropping acorns and leaves on my patio, and my potted plants are dropping more and more flowers. I’ll need the broom a lot in the weeks to come.
What do you think of when you see this broom? Unfortunately, you might think about the Red Sox, and the fact that Tampa Bay swept them this week, meaning the Sox lost all three games in the series.
hat do you think of when you see this broom? Do you think about Jesus? Maybe you never would have before today. But after this morning, I suspect you will. At least I hope you will because of Jesus’ parable.
Actually, Jesus tells three parables in Luke chapter 15. The first is the parable of the lost sheep. What shepherd wouldn’t go off in search of one sheep missing from a flock of 99, asks Jesus. And although the answer to that question might not be as obvious as we think because, frankly, endangering 99 sheep for the sake of 1 doesn’t really make a lot of sense . . . still, we all know that Jesus is the shepherd in the story and that yes, Jesus will come searching for every single one of us. That’s the first parable in Luke chapter 15. The third of the three parables in Luke 15 is not one we heard this morning, but you probably know it anyway. It’s the parable of the Prodigal Son. And everyone who hears that parable thinks about the love and mercy and forgiveness of our heavenly Father, as promised through Jesus. So you see the theme Jesus has got going with these parables . . . they’re about welcoming back those who have become lost – whether sheep or son (or daughter). But sandwiched in between the lost sheep and the lost son is the parable of the lost coin. A woman loses one of her ten coins. The coin was a drachma – the Greek equivalent of the Roman denarius – and it probably was worth about the cost of a day’s wages. And the tool the woman uses to search for the coin – a broom.
And how does the woman use the broom to search for what is lost? Carefully. Diligently. Painstakingly. She lights a lamp. Oil for a lamp is not cheap, and she probably usually saves it for night time. But remember: this is a 1st century Middle Eastern peasant village. The floors of the house were probably dirt, on which it would be difficult to see a coin. And the windows, if there even were windows, were probably small and close to the ceiling, allowing little light to enter the dwelling. So she lights the lamp because she must find that coin. And then, the search is on. Out comes her broom, and carefully she begins a systematic and thorough sweeping of the whole house. Across the floor, under mats, behind pottery vessels she searches. And she doesn’t stop until the coin is found. This is how Jesus searches for us when we get lost. He spares no expense, painstakingly looking for us – not stopping until we are found. That’s why, from this day on, I hope a broom reminds you of Jesus.
And here’s why I love this parable, maybe even more than I love the parable of the lost sheep or the prodigal son – because coins don’t intentionally get lost. Sheep wander away and children run away and willfully disobey their parents, but coins – they can’t willfully, intentionally do ANYTHING because they’re inanimate objects. And even though we are definitely animate objects, it seems to me that for most of us, in present company, when we get lost from time to time – it isn’t intentional or willful. For most of us, when we get lost, it’s something that happens to us, rather than something that we choose. We feel lost on a day like today – September 11th – when we think about how much has changed in the last 21 years. We feel lost when we work hard but wonder whether it makes any difference at all for the people we work for or the people we love or the world. We feel lost when we lose people who are dear to us. These are not things that we choose. But we feel lost, nonetheless. And for all of us who, one way or another, feel lost today, Jesus comes looking. And he will not stop looking, he will not stop sweeping, he will not stop until he finds us, to give us what we need.
That’s a message I need to hear today: that Jesus is coming looking for me, to put his arms around me. And I’d like to stop right there . . . except that the parable ends with Jesus talking about the joy of the angels over one sinner who repents. I got a little stuck on this ending to the parable of the lost coin because, just like coins don’t choose to get lost, coins also can’t choose to repent. And I’m not so sure that the lostness I’ve described – our sadness about the world, our despair over feeling like we can’t make a difference, our deep and painful grief – I’m not so sure that these are things to be repented. Prayed about, yes, but repented? But even here, friends, there is tender mercy. Because repentance, at its root, is not so much about confessing our sins as it is about turning toward God. Turning, and finding Jesus right here beside us, right where we need him, right where he has promised to be and will be always. So, my friends, in your sadness, in your despair, in your grief, turn . . . and see your Savior, broom in hand, tirelessly searching until he finds you, gets your attention, and reminds you: I’m right here.