Coin of the Realm

September 12, 2010

Clay Nelson

Pentecost 6     Luke 15:1-32

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Today might be called lost and found Sunday. We have three stories Jesus tells in response to the Pharisees disdain for his eating with sinners. We have a lost coin, a lost sheep and a lost son. In each case they were found with great rejoicing. We have heard about them many times before. So many times we may assume that they have nothing left to say to us. In their familiarity we may have lost sight of how radical they are. My challenge in preparing for this morning was to find them surprising again as Jesus intended all of his parables to be.


I began by thinking about what was lost and how they differed. The prodigal son did not have to be sought. He returned of his own accord. The lost sheep made it easy for the shepherd by bleating his location. The lost coin said nothing cloaked in darkness.


It occurred to me that as someone impeded by a Y-chromosome, finding anything is a challenge. Like the prodigal’s father I prefer to wait for the lost to find me. Failing that I might have a chance of finding something if it calls out to me like a lost lamb. As that rarely happens, I call on Lynette to find what is often right before my eyes. If I have heard, “If it was a snake it would’ve bit you,” once I’ve heard it a thousand times.


Perhaps because I am in awe of a woman’s capacity to find what often eludes me, I found myself drawn to the story of the lost coin and what the woman who lost and then found it might have to say to me. 


Let’s listen in as she reflects on her loss. 


As I went about finishing my evening chores, I heard it fall from the chain I keep it on with the nine others that crown my forehead. It clinked and then rolled, immediately swallowed up in the darkness of the evening. I had to reign in my panic. Those ten coins are mine. As a woman in a man’s world there is very little that is mine. They are a statement of my worth. They say I have value. If one is lost I am diminished. I am less whole. I feel like I have fallen like the coin. I remember some unpleasant, difficult stories of women who have also fallen. Fallen women (Why is it no one talks of fallen men?) are at the bottom of the heap, forgotten, outrage unanswered and unheard, silenced, lost in the darkness; abandoned and vulnerable, condemned to passivity. Which of us women, I ask, have not experienced or feared the fate of the lost coin? How many of us still lie lost in the dark with it.


As my panic begins to subside, I am subdued by the memory of other losses in my life. My life has been full of loss from the moment of my birth. There have been lost opportunities, lost loved ones, lost health, a lost sense of zest for life and with it a deep inward joy and sense of purpose. At times I have even lost a sense of self.


I shake myself from a reverie that leads only to a darker place than my coin has found. I must find that coin. I must begin the search without delay, carefully following the trail, the pain perhaps; the light of the inner voice perhaps, and be confident that I will find it. There is no alternative if I am to be complete again.


Outwardly and inwardly, inwardly and outwardly I search my house diligently and as I do, my life situation and circumstances as well. I listen attentively for clues to the whereabouts of what has been lost. Inwardly and outwardly I know tender places can be signposts to places that throw light intellectually and psychologically on what we have lost if I find the courage to go there. I know that we women do not divorce specific life circumstances from inward psychological and bodily experience. It is a dualism we do not accept. We do not divide the Spirit. Through what surrounds us and the deep and directing wisdom of our intuition we see reality. What we see tells us much has been lost and needs to be named if it is to be found.


What has been lost is justice, the sharing of goods and gifts. What has been lost is the possibility of living peacefully together. What has been lost is the wisdom of the opposite poles and their harmonious coordination in dark and light, female as well as male, above as well as below, heaven and earth. What has been lost is the harmony with the regularities of nature, astonishment at the miracle of the diversity of races and species, of the equal worth and distinctiveness of us women and men.


What has been lost is the harmony of emotional and rational knowledge, of intuition and reason, flesh and spirit. What has been lost is the grateful acceptance of boundaries and finitude. What has been lost is the certainty of our oneness with all creation. What has been lost is living out the universal love that embodies and surrounds us. What has been lost the Song of Songs tells us is our beloved.


So much has been lost. The situation seems hopeless. How am I to find any pathways here? How will I ever be equal to the challenge of this crying lost-ness.


I then remembered from past experience that how I responded to the loss made all the difference. My response gave me direction. When I went freely and autonomously and courageously in search of restoring my wholeness, recovering my value, I discovered that strength flowed into me. It was a liberating strength like lighting a lamp. It allowed me to look carefully ahead to examine each step to find the inner goal. I was able to go forth consciously and pragmatically to achieve that goal, like many women before me.


Like the woman with the haemorrhage that never stopped who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, in full awareness that this is forbidden. She demanded health, and her loss was restored to her. She knew life’s rhythm and cycles could not be silenced by human law or prejudice.


And the Syrophoenician woman who used all her persistence and skill in argument until Jesus finally heard her, restoring her loss. She knew life is shaped by clear-minded determination and passion.


And the widow who pestered the judge to claim what she had lost until she received it. She knew a fulfilled life requires justice.


And then the woman who had always been loyal and remained so even when she knew for sure that everything was lost – He was dead and buried for ever. This woman who remained prostrate in her grief and loss until she heard his greeting, “Mary!” Her cry, “Rabboni!” confirmed her certainty that life is dying, life is transformation and that nothing is lost – nothing.


As I listen to her ruminations while sweeping, moving furniture; peering into the crevices of her life, I know she will find the coin. And so she does. Picking up the shiny disk she sees her face reflected back to her and she rejoices--not alone, but with her friends and neighbours. Her joy is contagious. It overflows, inspires and multiplies moving others to find hope and courage to not give into their sense of loss. They see the coin and recognize what seemed lost was there all the time. They look at her and see God. Surprised to discover that God is more than a loving father welcoming back his prodigal or Jesus the shepherd actively looking for the lamb but also a woman who does not let loss defeat or define her, only direct her forward. The divine feminine knows each of us are precious and will not stop encouraging us to search until we have found the coin of God’s realm she knows awaits only our discovery. With it in hand, we, too, will know wholeness and be certain of our worth.

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