Sermon

Luke 15:8-10

Loose Change

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Luke 15:8-10

Loose Change

By Emily Sylvester

A few years ago our daughter Else was sitting beside us in church. When Lucien took the collection, Else put a mitt-full of pennies on the plate. I must have looked surprised. She said, “The kids at school spin pennies at each other down the hallway, and sometimes I find stray pennies no one else has picked up yet. I save them for the collection plate.”

I forgot all about this until 10 months ago when I thought, “I wonder how many lost coins I can find in a year?” And I thought, “I’ll talk about this with the kids the last Sunday before summer. I’ll turn it into a parable.”

So here they are, a year’s worth of found coins and a light-hearted five-dollar bill that was making its break for freedom outside the Beaver Lumber yard. They’re from Kingston, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Sexsmith. Some are from airports in Calgary, Toronto, and Saskatoon. I haven’t counted them. Make a guess how much they add up to. Let’s find out – I need a volunteer to count them.

At first I got my found change mixed in with my own coins. That wouldn’t do. So I dedicated a special pocket in my purse for my lost and wayward coins, and every once in a while, emptied it into that plastic mesh bag. I washed them too – now why would I bother doing that? Yes, your parents want me to remind you, anything you pick up from the ground can be pretty icky.

I would have expected to find lots of pennies, and I did, but I found almost as many nickels, dimes, quarters and loonies. And even a couple of toonies. And here is the funny part. I was equally excited about finding pennies as I was about other coins. Their face value didn’t mean too much to me – it was the fun of finding and rescuing them, knowing someday I would be telling you about all this.

Some of the lost coins were still bright and shiny. Some were so tarnished they were exactly the same colour as the dirt on the street. Some had lain on the road so long that they were bent and pitted and scarred and broken around their edges from the cars driving over them. John mounted one on this pin. It might have been lying in the street for years. There was nothing it could do to rescue itself.

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So that’s the story of the change I’ve been finding. And here is a pun. I noticed some changes in me too. I began to look for fallen coins. I began to walk in different places than before – along new streets and on the opposite side of a street. And I learned a lesson in humility. I was walking with some people who are well placed in the world, quite senior to me in my department. When I stooped to pick up a penny on the sidewalk, it was a curious feeling to not explain why I was “pinching my pennies” so tightly.

These coins remind me of a few things I am thankful for. That we live in a society affluent enough that losing a coin is not a great hardship. That even in my most couch potato moments I can still pick up coins from a sidewalk. That I have loved ones who help me – some of these are coins my family spotted first. That I am part of God’s family, and through Clairmont United, I have a way to give these coins to something that will help God’s purpose. And that I have a sense of humour. I smile each time I think of Doreen Hall finding all these coins in the collection and wondering what I was up to.

That reminds me of something that Jesus said:

“Or what woman having ten silver coins,
if she loses one of them,
does not light a lamp, sweep the house,
and search carefully until she finds it?
When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors,
saying, ‘Rejoice with me,
for I have found the coin that I had lost.’
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God
over one sinner who repents”
(Luke 15:8-10).

Yesterday I saw God walking down the sidewalk. He looked as if he was looking for something too. What could it be? What is he looking for in all the hidden crannies and dark places, and when he finds it, what is he picking up with such tenderness and putting in the special pocket he keeps for found souls? What is he looking for so hard and not giving up no matter how pitted and bent and dismayed it has become? What is he celebrating whenever he finds it as if it is still as shiny and precious as he first minted it?
It’s us, of course. He’s looking for us. He doesn’t mind at all the humility of stooping down and lifting us up from wherever we have rolled to. He lifts us close to his heart and whispers, “Precious child, I am so glad I found you. I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Let’s go home and I will wash you clean and polish you up and we can start all over again. You couldn’t rescue yourself. I knew that. So I came looking for you. And listen, we have a party waiting for us in heaven.” Then God checks his watch and gives a start. “You know, angels don’t like to be kept waiting. Let’s go!”

— Copyright 2002, Emily Sylvester. Used by permission.