Sermon – November 3, 2011 ~ Vicki Hesse, Seminarian
We humans have an
insatiable hunger for Lost and Found stories.
much smarter that I
who can name this
psychological archetype ~
lost thing goes missing,
lost thing is found,
much rejoicing occurs.
For example, on the national news
there was a story about a cat
that had been lost on August 25
at JFK Airport, “Jack.”
Jack’s owner had handed him over
to the airlines
for shipment to San Francisco,
but Jack never arrived.
When the story aired last week,
after two months,
Jack had been found,
having fallen through the ceiling tiles
at the airport.
By that time, he had 22,000 friends
on facebook (“Jack is Back”).
American Airlines agreed to fly his mom
back to New York for the reunion and rejoicing.
Or how about the Massachusetts folks
that got lost in a corn maze last week.
The couple and their baby
entered the maze at daylight
but got lost as darkness fell.
They had to call 911 to be rescued.
The Police K9 unit found the family
in 7 minutes.
While the couple was embarrassed,
the farm was rejoicing
with all the media coverage.
Apparently, many more people
wanted to experience the maze,
thus their revenue increased.
Even last week at the beach,
a man scanning the sand with a metal detector
told me how exciting it is
to find lost items on the beach –
especially after a storm,
when the coins and jewelry turn up
all in a bunch.
His whole life revolves around
finding lost items… recovering The Lost
is his passion in life.
And in today’s Gospel,
we have the “lost” people –
the tax collectors and “sinners” –
and the “found” people –
the Pharisees and scribes –
who have come to listen to Jesus.
The Pharisees grumble about Jesus,
thinking that he is lost
and must be found (out).
Jesus, of course,
knows they are trying
to trick him.
So, he tells two Lost and Found parables –
from today –
[followed by the Lost “Prodigal” Son parable,
but we have to wait for Lent for that lectionary.]
These Lost and Found stories are familiar –
The shepherd leaves 99 sheep
to find the lost one
and when finding the lost sheep,
rejoices and celebrates
with friends and neighbors.
The woman with 10 coins leaves 9 alone
to find the lost coin
and when finding the lost coin,
rejoices and celebrates
with friends and neighbors.
These stories touch our own primeval
desire for lost and found stories
So where are we?
who are we,
as seminarians, staff, faculty –
in these stories?
Are we the lost ones –
in whole or in part?
Is it possible that
maybe we are not wholely, totally lost,
but perhaps we can say
that we might have lost
part of our faith?
Too much messy church history,
too much deconstruction of scriptures,
too much preoccupation with Greek?
Have we lost our faith
in the midst of seminary?
Or, as priests-in-training,
are we the searchers
looking for lost folks to “save”?
Or, are we grumbling
about who else is lost
and must be “found out”?
How is this lost and found metaphor
playing out in our life?
Are we losing and finding?
Speaking of losing and finding,
Last week’s news reported
the results of a government study.
It noted that the rich are getting richer and
the very rich are getting very richer.
Over the last three decades,
the richest 1%
saw an income growth of 275%.
Meanwhile, the middle income growth was 40%
and the lower income growth was just 18%.
Certainly we have some
lost and found stories in this financial report –
which may be fuel
for the “Occupy” movement.
In over 70 cities and 600 communities, “Occupy”
protestors (who feel like they are the “lost”)
have set up camp.
Their rallying cry is “We are the 99%!”
But wait –
didn’t the “lost” sheep parable
say that the 99 were left behind
while the shepherd went and found the 1?
So who is lost in this real-life parable?
Who is found?
At these “We are the 99%” protests,
perhaps a message is that everyone
is affected by the 1%,
the “manipulating ruthless profiteers,”
which could be something
like the Pharisees and the Scribes
in today’s lesson.
The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling.
And Jesus found with them common ground.
Yes, the Tax collectors and sinners were “lost”
and God would find them.
Jesus emphasized the compassionate,
searching nature of God –
the rejoicing, celebratory nature of God.
The Pharisees would have agreed with this.
The subtle reversal occurred
when Jesus said that
rejoicing in heaven happens
whenever anyone repents,
or has a change of heart.
That would include the Pharisees and scribes –
whenever one turns,
there is rejoicing in heaven!
The good news today
is that God’s mercy extends to all –
not just the lost 99%
but the Pharisees and scribes, too.
What about that
“We are the 99%” cry?
If you listen,
you can hear a double-entendre.
Yes, the majority is suffering
from systemic manipulation
AND we are all, in some way,
complicit in creating and resolving
what ails us.
In other words, “We are the 100%”.
In God’s economy,
there is only an “us.”
One person who stood squarely
in the midst of a
Lost and Found, reformation-age
one in which parties cried
about “systemic manipulation”
is Richard Hooker.
He is as important today
as he was in the 16th Century.
And not just if you are studying for GOEs,
but for the way he defined our “via media”
way of doing theology.
Hooker made an active attempt
to confront, reconcile and hold in communion
the deeply opposed “lost” and “found” groups.
In finding this middle way –
this “via media” –
what we now call
in his masterful response
to the Puritans.
His response was
the multi-volume book
with the snappy name,
“Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.”
(The subtitle could be “How to build and run a church.”)
Hooker is important because
he defended the ideas and practices
of the Church of England,
with sensitivities to the Puritans.
He valued the catholic aspects
of polity and worship,
yet sought reformation.
he denied the bible as the only authority,
he argued that reason was a gift from God to be used and valued in interpretation, and
he held up the traditional ceremonies as recovered from their original intent.
The Three Legged Stool –
scripture, tradition, reason.
What was lost in religious controversy,
Hooker showed, could be found
in what we now call Anglicanism.
There is much more to say
about Richard Hooker.
He is for me a great inspiration.
He continues to inform
why I love the Anglican Church.
One reason is that
he emphasized participation,
not grumbling and analyzing.
Hooker would not argue
about what happens
to the bread and wine at Communion,
but held that transubstantiation
occurs in us
when we take and eat –
“there follows [in communion]
a true change of both soul and body,
an alteration from death to life and
a sharing in Christ.”
In other words, transformation occurs.
a change of heart,
a repentance –
all of which
in today’s lost parables.
The good news today
is that in our community,
in our being lost,
in our Holy Communion,
we are found.
Found by a compassionate, searching God.
This is a God
who rejoices over one sinner –
over one part of the whole –
who is transformed, changed, turned.
Will you rejoice with me?
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