Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 15, 2013
My daughter recently misplaced her wallet, with several important identification documents. She first called, worried about what to do. She checked with the bank to see if there had been any activity on her account. Then she retraced her steps and discovered that it was not lost at the store or in her friend’s car, so it had to be in her dorm room. She tore the room apart and finally found it. There was a great deal of rejoicing as she shared with her friends and her parents that the lost had been found.
The parable of the lost coin reminded me of my daughter’s situation. This parable and two others, the lost sheep and the lost son, focus on the lost being found (the sheep, the coin, and the son), the sinful being saved, and the love of God (Shepherd, Woman, and Father), who tirelessly seeks the lost and rejoices at their being found or redeemed.
The parable of the lost coin, however, is without parallel in the other Gospels. It tells of a woman who has ten silver coins, each equal to one day’s pay for a laborer, perhaps $100 in today’s currency. For the average Palestinian woman, ten coins would represent the savings of many months. When the woman of the parable loses one, perhaps hearing it drop on the stone floor, she lights a lamp and sweeps the house until she finds it. This parable forces its first-century listeners-scribes, Pharisees, tax collectors, and others-to identify with an individual whose status was beneath them. It also places a woman in the divine role of “searcher” and challenges traditional male-oriented understandings of God and Christ.
The woman’s behavior is just as fixed and just as determined as the shepherd’s. To recover one coin, she sacrifices the order of her whole house, tearing it apart in a tireless search for that which is missing. As with the other two parables, the story of the lost coin is focused upon the joy of finding it. Finding it causes the woman, like the shepherd and the father, to call together “friends and neighbors” to rejoice and to dance in delight with her. The coin’s true value comes only from its “found-ness.”
Jane R. Gehler, pastor, Ebenezer Moravian Church, Watertown, Wisconsin