8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10 NLT)
Remember…Luke 15 tells of a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. These folks didn’t like it that Jesus’ “congregation” included despicable people such as tax collectors and other notorious sinners. Jesus loved sinners and wanted them to turn to God, but he also loved Pharisees and religious people and wanted them to understand that lost people matter to God. So instead of engaging in an argument with them over who’s in and who’s out, or who’s accepted by God and who’s rejected, Jesus told them three stories. Last week, Story 1 – The Lost Sheep. Here’s story 2 – The Lost Coin…
A woman has lost a valuable silver coin, one of ten valuable coins she had. These were silver coins. Most of today’s coins and all of today’s currency have no intrinsic value. Modern coins and currency have value assigned by the economic system. Uganda’s currency is at 3693 shillings to 1 US dollar. Jamaica’s currency is at 141 JA dollars to 1 one US dollar. US currency is at 1.36 dollars to one British pound, and at 1.23 dollars to one Euro. These are arbitrary numbers and they constantly slide up and down due primarily to political and economic factors.
But this lost silver coin was valuable! It may have been one of the “Ten Coins” gift traditionally given to Palestinian brides by their father on their wedding day. It could have been a special coin with her favorite Roman Emperor’s image on one side, maybe even minted in her first child’s birth year. It was a valuable coin, one of ten that she had, and it was lost. And she was desperate to find it!
Things get lost. We misplace our car keys. We leave our credit card at the grocery store. We can’t find our phone. We lose the remote control and eventually find it between the cushions of the sofa. Sometimes we lose important documents.
My Mother’s Gift. As I grew up in my parents’ home and later as Jean and I had a home of our own, we all began to realize that my mother, Alice Stephens, had some kind of gift for finding things that got lost. Someone in the family would lose something, we’d tear the place apart trying to find it, or we’d retrace our steps from the time we last remembered seeing it, and finally we’d cry out to Mom about it. My mother would pray about it and then, sometimes right away, or sometimes a little later, she’d say. “have you looked in the desk drawer” or “I just keep thinking about a coat pocket” and we’d rush to look and there it would be!
I remember very well a time in the late ‘80s when Jean and Melissa and I were living in Kingston, Jamaica. We were due to renew our work permit visa with Jamaica Immigration and we couldn’t find a folder of very important documents we needed for the renewal application. The deadline was fast approaching and without the work visa we couldn’t stay in Jamaica. We’d have been deported as soon as the permit expired. (This was before internet and email and text messaging and cell phones and scanning of documents. And all we had was our landline which only had a dial tone about half the time.) We phoned my mother, thousands of miles away in southern Oregon, and told her our dilemma. I asked her to pray while I held on the call at about a dollar a minute. She prayed about the lost documents, and I prayed, “Oh Lord, Let this be one of the quick ones!” In a moment she said, “I just keep thinking of a folder that has fallen down behind a drawer!” While Jean stayed on the line, I rushed to the file cabinet and pulled the drawer completely out, and there it was, fallen down inside the back of the cabinet! Thanks, Mom! Thank you, Lord! We submitted the paperwork and it was processed in a timely manner and we were good for another two years!
Things get lost that are too important or too valuable to just write them off! There are broken relationships with long lost family members, friendships that have gone missing through carelessness or some nearly forgotten disagreement. There are people who used to be a big part of our lives and now we’re quite a ways down very different paths and we miss them but we don’t know how or it just seems like too much effort to try and get back on the same track. There’s a hole in our lives where they used to be!
Just like the woman who lost the coin, we’ve lost something or someone valuable. Just like the woman who lost the coin, if the value is great enough, we’ll light a lamp, tear the house apart, retrace our steps to where we last remember the person or the thing not being lost.
Lostness matters to God: Lost relationships, misplaced friendships, people who have fallen down behind a drawer and are hidden from our view, all matter to God and to us. Let’s not give up on lost people just like the woman didn’t give up on her lost coin.
Jesus says heaven is happy and angels rejoice when the lost are found. When people change their minds and are restored to relationship and fellowship, when we stop making it about “us” versus “them” and realize that God sees “us” and “them” as all part of his family, heaven rejoices! Like the woman who lost the coin, let’s light a lamp, let’s search diligently, and let’s keep searching until find what we’ve lost. Then let’s join heaven in celebrating!