Materials for Worship on the Second Sunday of the Season of Creation

Nerys writes:  Today’s Gospel, Luke 15.1-10,  which contains the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, is so familiar to us that it would be easy to think that there is nothing new it can teach us. It would also be easy to dismiss it as irrelevant to the themes and issues of the Season of Creation. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to  read it slowly and prayerfully, using your imagination to enter into each story in turn, aware of the context in which Luke’s Jesus is telling them but also of what God’s Spirit might be saying to you through them.

First of all, listen to the religious leaders of Israel grumbling among themselves about the company Jesus seeks out. ‘What does he think he’s doing welcoming outsiders and misfits and eating meals with them? Doesn’t he understand that these people are lost to God and that we should have nothing to do with them?’ In response to their mutterings, Jesus tells a series of three ‘lost and found’ parables. Did you notice that the first two are framed as questions, challenging Jesus’  listeners then,   and Luke’s readers now,  to think about their attitude and behaviour towards others?

We are invited to imagine that we are  a shepherd, a very rich shepherd, rich enough to own a hundred sheep. In Jesus’ day, most shepherds in Galilee would have had no more than a handful of sheep which they would have known individually. It would have been almost impossible for one to get separated from the herd without the shepherd noticing. This shepherd, however, had a huge flock and probably a number of hired hands to help him look after them. If one sheep wandered off and got lost, you might expect him to send one of these servants to look for it while he got on with more pressing business. But Jesus suggests that a good   shepherd wouldn’t do this.  Instead, he would set out himself to look for the lost sheep, searching until he found it.

We are also invited to imagine that we are a woman who had ten coins, her family savings or her dowry perhaps,  hidden away in her house. When she realises that one of the ten is missing, wouldn’t her response be, suggests Jesus,  to get her lamp to light up the dark corners and her broom to carefully sweep the floors? Instead of carrying on with more important household tasks, hoping that it would turn up, she would take time to search carefully for the coin until she found it.

Lost Coin and Lost Sheep by Nelly Bube, an artist from Kazakhstan

Is this not how we would respond in a similar situation, asks Jesus, and wouldn’t we be so relieved on finding the thing we had lost that we would call our friends and neighbours to celebrate with us? These are the extraordinary actions of people who value each one of their possessions so highly that they prioritise restoring them to their rightful place over all else, and who would expect their community to rejoice along with them when they succeed. This, explains Jesus to the failed shepherds of the people of Israel, is what God is really like. In God’s kingdom, every individual matters. When even one person who has felt cut off from God realises that God loves them just the way they are, God throws  a great party in heaven and invites us to rejoice with him.

When we hear on the news of eco systems being destroyed and of thousands of homes and lives being lost because of wild fires or flooding, it is easy to think ‘this is to big’ or ‘there’s nothing I can do to make a difference’ and to get on with our day. But if each individual person matters to God, they should matter to us too.

Last week Pam Martin shared with us the inspiring starfish story which reminds us that every individual is important and that every little thing that we do to help others counts. But like the person on the beach who throws the stranded starfish back into the water one at a time,  and like the shepherd and the woman in Jesus’ stories, we need to make time to respond  when we see a need.  I wonder if each of us could take an hour  this week to search for some  information about a particular aspect of the Climate Crisis? It could be information about a particular habitat or community affected badly by climate change. We could find information about a project or a charity to support. We could find information about a way of using our voice to call for change. We could use the information we’ve found to help us  to pray about a particular situation.

You are all welcome to bring the information you have found to church where, for the next few weeks,  there will be a starfish-themed area for it to be displayed and shared.

In the meantime, here is a blessing for you to receive and to share:

Walk softly upon the earth. May its beauty surround you, may its wisdom delight you, its music invite you. May you love and be loved, may you know peace and practice compassion, rejoice in the earth and in all of creation. Amen.