Jesus’ Lost Coin

 

A Homily      The Parable of the Lost Coin.     From Luke 15

The lesson:  It is a good thing to make God joyful.

{Read it prior to homily reading, please}

 

The Sunday Gospel in Luke today takes us into the great fifteenth chapter, which has some famous parable teachings of Jesus.  The one parable there, usually overlooked, is the three verse lesson called The Parable of the Lost Coin  (Lk. 15:8-10).  Yet it really has a lot to say to us—for it guides us as Christ’ Church to bringing Him joy. We have some things to question from the verses:  What’s the big deal about finding one coin? Who is the woman in the parable?  Why a woman?  How valuable are these 10 silver coins, and to their owner, and what was one such coin worth in today’s money, as if we’d lost it?     Why the diligent search for it—don’t we have coins lost in our sofas or in our car or forgotten in a pants pocket, or on the dresser, or in a drawer somewhere?    Why does Jesus teach about joy in heaven over someone’s repentance in conclusion with this story (and its book-end parables of the finding of a lost sheep and finding of a prodigal son?)Let’s answer those questions…

What’s with the one lousy coin?  How important could it be? Well, it was more that a penny or nickel like in today’s money values.   This coin, or “drachma” (as they called it) was worth a day’s wages.  If lost—then it was one full day’s pay out of a ten-day earning.  So it’s not like losing a quarter and then finding it and getting your quarter back.

When I was a teenager and getting paid in cash for some day’s work—sometimes I could make $200 in a day—and I still remember the time back then when I once lost my paycheck.  You can believe I looked long and hard until I found it.  (Which I did.  I might have been able to get the paycheck re-written the next week,  but I needed some money right away, and where was that lost money of mine?!) The woman in the parable lost a day’s wages.   It seemed to be a big deal for her, too.  The woman is not portrayed as a wealthy person in the parable, but some worker living on “day to day” money.  (There were wealthier woman of the times, in the Middle East, back then, who actually wore coins up on their hats, for decoration.   The parable is surely not addressing this type of woman.  The coin is not a frivolous loss, like a decorative coin would be ,off of a rich lady’s hat and so easy to replace on a hat).  The woman in the parable definitely needed all those ten days wages.   One lost day of wages—“the lost coin”—would have been a lot for her.  I think of an unemployed woman, someone I know, who this Summer was out of work, except for just a week or so’s work and earnings, which had to sustain her all Summer long, until her Fall job started up again.   If she had misplaced a day’s paycheck, then a diligent search for it would have started.  I can tell you that!   So—draw THAT comparison in this parable of the lost coin.

Joy in heaven

Well, let’s speak about that joy of finding the coin.  As the illustration suggests a little celebration for the woman, Jesus seems to be drawing much more of a celebration about it.  As Jesus is telling this parable, there is much excitement and joy in His voice.  Why is HE elated for this woman in his illustration and her found coin? Because the coin found in the parable represents us.  We are the coin found.  We are that one sinner who repents and that causes heaven to rejoice.

Jesus was rejoicing over people responding to Him and believing the Good News and following Him.   We belong to Him, the Divine Son, but were lost in sin.  We were lost to Him like a dear possession.  He knows the Pharisees listening to this parable valued their coins and money—so He uses this illustration for them.  Yet it also works in application to you and I.   We belong to God, and He wants us back in His care.  He wants the sinner to be found.   Jesus says at the parable’s end, that repentance led to the person’s recovery to God.

Jesus reveals that Heaven is a place of joy, and its joy is increased by the sinner who repents.  Heaven, with all its saints and angels, wants more into its eternal celebration.  Thus, they rejoice with God over another one added in to His elect company.

In this parable, you get it our Savior is sad that some Pharisees are not rejoicing that Jesus is leading people to find faith and love and hope. You are to conclude from Him, that, if you wouldn’t care about whether a person is saved or not, then, of course you wouldn’t rejoice over their finding salvation. But because God so cares, and the angels of God so care for humanity, and all of Christ’ faithful should do so also, that, when one of us in the lost human community truly repents and surrenders their self to God, then some joy and happiness is in order.  It is what brings Jesus joy.   It should bring it to us, too.  A “lost coin” is the soul found.

The point of the story about the woman is that of the ten coins, this one lost one is noticeably missed and precious.   It’s just like a lost sinner—one is noticeably missed and precious to God. God notices who is missing.  He goes in search of it.   He asks the church to assist him in finding the lost sinner. This brings us to the question: Who is the woman in the parable?  You should surmise it by now that she is the church.   You guessed it right.

The woman is the church—the faith community whom we profess to be. Jesus led into His teaching on the parable of the woman and her lost coin with the parable of male shepherd finding his one lost sheep (of the hundred).  In the Shepherd image in Luke 15, Jesus is talking about Himself.  He has used a male image in the first parable, and now, in the next parable He switches to a female image.  Why?  Because the Church is the bride of Christ.  She is related to the shepherd.  He has asked her to help in the search for lost souls.  Do you see its connection now in this parable?  The Church loves her Shepherd, so she serves Him to bring Him joy.

You know that—as the church—that Jesus has asked us to seek and save the lost as our responsibility of His holy ones.  We were the little lamb or sheep brought home on His shoulders, and now we are the church helping in the mission to the spiritually lost.  In the New Testament writings, you notice that the church is often represented as a female. For example, the church is spoken of as a bride, or as a virgin, or as the wife of the Lamb. In Revelations, the church is working in tandem so much with the Holy Spirit, that the call is heard:  “The Spirit and the Bride say come!”   The woman, the church, is being inspired by the Holy Spirit to win souls to God.  It’s Revelations 22:17—one of the final verses in the Bible, and is says:  The Spirit and the Bride say come—to the world—they say come to Jesus for salvation and shepherding.  Come home to Jesus.

The Lord is seeking those who are perishing today.  That’s the parable of the Shepherd looking for lost sheep.   He wants us in the sheep saving rescue operation—the church—as the woman diligently seeking the lost coin.    He wants people back to the fold who have strayed, too.   This is the third of the parables of Luke 15, in the prodigal son found.   For finding these former or fallen away Catholics—we call that our “New Evangelism”   God seeks after the sinners (and backsliding believers who sin) through the agency of His holy people, the Church of God, in Christ Jesus.  We are His family of believers, The Church.

Next, the parable gives us two things that the woman in the parable (the  church) is set to do in seeking her coin (the lost soul).   A coin of those days could easily get lost when just dropped to the ground, whether inside or outside, since there was much dust and dirt beneath their feet everywhere.   In the parable, it seems presumed that the coin is thought to be ‘hiding in the dark and the dust?’  Did you hear that detail?   The woman in the parable, that is, the church, goes to put a Light on, and then she starts to sweep.  These are our two things to be busy doing in seeking the lost coin, er, the lost souls around us today.

She lights a lamp first.   What’s that detail about?   It is because she needs to see in the dark, or at least to see with full light through the shady and shadowy places.   For the Church, this is symbolic of our need to invite the help of the Holy Spirit to be the light and power over all darkness.   We are asked by Jesus to turn the Light of the Holy Spirit on.   We can’t see well without His Spirit.    This is a message heard all throughout Luke’s Gospel message and in his Acts of the Apostles:  We need the Spirit.   Even Samuel the prophet and King David of the Old Testament knew to call on God’s Spirit this way, as they prayed in trust:  “The Lord is My Light and My Salvation, of whom should I be afraid if I have the Lord?” (We also need Light to see what God needs us to see.)

Next, there is some sweeping going on.    What does one sweep away usually from the floor?  It is dirt and dust we sweep away.   This describes what the woman in the parable, the Church, is meant to be doing.   Yes, housecleaning!   Sweeping around.   Kicking up the dirt of sin and the dust of our inaction or inactivity of disobedience.    In the OT, dust refer to our fallen body (Gen.2:7), or of death (Ps. 22:19), or even humiliation (Ps. 72.9)—so the Spirit is outpoured in our New Covenant in Christ, to bring us Light and Healing, to overcome this fall of humanity.   But we must exercise our faith and our authority in Jesus Christ to get the broom out and help find some sinners lost below the dirt and the dust.

Here—- stop and think of some examples going on that show this lamp lighting and sweeping going on for the Lord, as His Church.

 

It is a good thing to make God joyful.   As Jesus explains, there is joy in heaven over the salvation of a sinner.   This is a major emphasis of this parable of the Lost Coin.

 

Or, like the parable says, we sweep, and jingle-jangle, we hear something that has been touched by our broom.  We lower the lamplight. We see a coin.  It is the Lord’s coin.   We pick it up and present it back to Him.   He becomes exceedingly glad about it, as does all His company above in Glory.  The found coin is a person found for Heaven.

By estimate, there are a ten thousand coins, that is, lost persons, right here in the Bowie vicinity.  They are people living as “lost.”  They don’t have Jesus.   Jesus has sent His Church, the woman, to go find them.   See them, hear their jangle in our brooms of compassionate and interest in them.  Clean off their dust, and help them get picked up, and bring to them to the saving message of Jesus Christ, and join them into a community of people of other “found people” who are thankfully living the Christian way of freedom and happiness.

 

Does that describe what we are doing here?    The parable is a self-check for a church.

 

What a joy it is to God when we are doing this job for him of seeking the lost and finding them.  The Lord uses our heart for evangelism and the Gospel, and He does a mighty thing through it.  Psalm 113:7 describes it, as God uses the faith community:  He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dirt, dust and ashes; that he may set them to be seated with royal places, in a stature with the King of the people.

 

Yes, praise the Lord! He raises the poor out of the dust. God raises the poor of this world from the dust, from the humiliation, from the degradation of sin. And He lifts them up to sit into a heavenly stature. He makes us to be sons and daughters of God. That is salvation.  We each, as found by the Church as led by Jesus Christ, are those drachmas found, of great value to God, to be His possession forever.

 

Fr. Barry’s Tie Ins.    √ We have a model in St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church, who urges us to use the Holy Spirit to be our Light and to help in the sweeping.   (See parish bulletin insert—9-15 St. Ed’s.)

 

√ Tie in to this time of year.  A Gathering, harvest-of-souls time. Our parish programs to share faith are just begun.   Invite people in.

 

√ Message about lost coins—the tenth that is lost to the church (one missed coin out of the ten)—as when tithes are not given to her, for her mission, she is not able to best do what she is called to do.  Priorities need to be re-addressed.   A parish needs to support herself and her staff.

It is a hidden message of this parable of the lost coin.

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