Year A Proper 27 WEDNESDAY, 11 November 2020
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Two Other Kinds of Lost”
Collect: O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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."
I was struck when I read the Gospel this morning. I have always read this story as to being about eternal salvation. I think that that is what it is primarily about. But one of the wonders of Scripture is the applicability to the times we are in.
First, today is Veterans’ Day. I was not in the military, but the military was a huge part of my growing up for two reasons. We lived just a few miles from Fort Eustis Army Base in Newport News, which led to a lot of my friends being military brats. I would go over to play on the base, and see life from over there.
Also, my father was an electrical designer at the Shipyard. We thrived or hurt according to military contracts. He worked on attack subs and aircraft carriers. And so the military was on the forefront of our consciousness. Overhead, Air Force jets flew daily from Langley Air Force base, and before I was born my mom worked there at the NASA installation.
When it comes to the military, few parts of our society has more respect than these men and women who would lay aside their choices, income, and even safety to protect us all. Growing up in the 70s, though, I saw how people belittled our VietNam vets particularly. I never understood that. I still do not. The men and women who served and were traumatized from that time deserve our respect and love. I feel like they were lost, and I wish we had taken the effort to find rather than condemn them.
That was then, but now we are looking at something similar.
In our nation, we are deeply divided. Much of this has come from the rhetoric being spewed. If you can get someone’s ire up, you can influence and manipulate them. No matter how rational and logical we believe ourselves to be, we are emotional beings. Studies have repeatedly shown how little logic comes into our decision making.
In our divisions, two major things have come into play. These two things are uglier parts of our nature, and few of us would admit to the big parts they play. The two things that come to my mind first are Spite and Moral Superiority.
I found myself saying last week, “Never be surprised by someone else’s spite.” I do not necessarily believe that, but it comes out so often when I witness others interacting. For me, if I am about to take a stance, especially a strong one or an oppositional one, I ask myself, “Am I acting out of spite?” If I think I am or even might be, I step back, rethink things, and hopefully approach it in an air of humility. I pray I can keep that up and get even better at it.
Moral Superiority is another one of those things that FEELS so RIGHT. We may even be so. But when we act in an air of being morally superior it is often responded to with Spite. Which undermines our initial intent. Now that is not saying to name wrong “wrong,” evil “evil,” and bad “bad.” We have a duty to do that. But we must do it in such a way as to build up and not shame.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 18 what to do when someone is behaving badly, and even in his instruction he does his best to protect people from shaming.
15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
And as I have said before, treating them like a Gentile or tax collector may seem like exclusion, but rather it is surrounding them with love and grace, NEVER SHAME.
Look at how people are interacting these days. There is a lot of shaming being attempted. Which brings us back to Spite.
Jesus goes out, alone, and seeks and saves the lost. Maybe a part of that is helping the lost to see that they are lost. Our 12-Step friends have taught us that admitting you have a problem is the first step. We must help friends see that, by holding up a mirror, using “I” language, and approaching it from a place of love and respect, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE NOT RESPONDING WITH THE SAME.
So easily said, so hard to do. Friends, may we seek out the lost, and help get them home, no matter how or why they are lost. We have no worry in the how or the why, we are only tasked in sharing the burden of getting everyone home. Amen