First Sunday of Lent
Preacher: Canon Michael Rawson, Sub Dean & Pastor
When I went to college my parents bought me one of those portable sound systems nicknamed ghetto blasters - a huge thing, all silver and shiny with bits of chrome all over it. It was a wonderful piece of equipment and managed to annoy the neighbours quite successfully.
But as time went on things began to malfunction, and in the end the whole thing blew its mind. I was greeted with disbelief at the repair shop, as though I'd dropped out of space or something. Why did I want this thing repairing when you could buy a new one so much more easily? No one would repair it. You can't fix it, so you bin it! Our society seems to have obsolescence built into it. These days if someone has lost something then the prevailing attitude is, "Easy come, easy go." You don't get too fussed about it. Things are of little value.
In the second reading we heard two parables - one about a shepherd who lost one of his sheep, so he left the 99 and went in search of the lost one. The other is similar about a woman who has ten coins and loses one, so she again seeks it out. Jesus told them to his listeners in order to teach something about the love of God. Although the shepherd still had the majority of his flock intact, he still leaves the others because that lost one is as important as the others. When he finds the sheep he is overjoyed and throws a party for this friends. The same is true also for the woman. The nine coins aren't enough for her - she wants them all, not just the majority. So she turns the whole house upside down in her search for the missing coin. Again she too is overjoyed and throws a party to celebrate the lost coin.
God's love does the seeking; he pursues us with an everlasting love - never tiring, never stopping, never giving up on us as a bad job. That's how much God loves us. God's love turns our world upside down, changing all our perceptions, overturning all our pre-conceived ideas as to how he should act in the world. This is the God who sits and eats with sinners. With you and me.
But why does God pursue us like this? Simply because we are precious in his sight. We are all works of art; priceless and valuable beyond belief. When he made each of us he broke the mould (perhaps a wise move on his part!). Sadly many of us don't realise how much God loves us; we don't believe that for the most part we're worth loving. Luke's gospel reminds us that we are.
These parables are the warm up act for the parable of the prodigal son. And in that wonderful story we hear about the loving Father looking out, longing and yearning to see his wayward son turn around on the path and come back to him. He's desperate for his son to return and he didn't want to hear of any excuses or explanations, he simply wanted to hug him and welcome him home. And that's the long and the short of repentance - it's not grovelling around on the floor saying I'm a wicked sinner, a worm and no person - I guess God already knows that and he's not interested. All we need to do is to turn around (metanoia) and walk back to God, that we renew our fellowship with him, and that we once more rejoice to be called one of his children.
I want to leave you with some words of Mother Julian of Norwich -
Our failing is full of fear.
Our falling is full of shame
And our dying is full of sorrow.
But in all this the sweet eye of pity and love
never looks away from us,
nor does the working of mercy ever cease.