Homily for Sunday, September 11, 2022
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I looked at the readings for this Sunday a couple of weeks ago my first thought was about how different the images of God are as presented in our first reading from Exodus and the gospel reading from Luke.
In Exodus we hear Moses pleading with an angry God to let go of wrath and destruction and spare the people of Israel who have sinned by raising up and worshiping an idol in place of the One who has brought them out of slavery. Moses goes so far as to try and embarrass God “you know, God, what are the Egyptians going to say about you..” and he reminds God of the promise made to Abraham and Sarah. In the end, Moses is successful and God relents.
In Luke, Jesus responds to those who criticize his choice to associate with “tax collectors and sinners” with two parables about losing and finding. In each parable something valuable goes missing and the owner goes in search of it. Upon finding that which is lost, the owner rejoices.
As I reflect further upon the readings, and consider each in its own context a lot of the apparent contradictions begin to diminish.
Exodus is primarily a story of God’s faithfulness. It begins by recounting the story of the people of Israel in Egypt. It tells of how God delivered them from slavery and began to form them into a people. It is a complicated, sometimes bloody story filled with faith and failure. Often, the whole enterprise seems doomed. God’s people find themselves trapped in between a hostile army and the sea, hungry and thirsty in the desert and riven with doubt and division. Yet, in the face of each obstacle internal and external-God provides a way. The book ends with a beautifully detailed description of the creation of the Ark of the Covenant and its Dwelling, physical symbols of God’s faithful presence in an immensely complex world.
The two parables of the lost and found presented by Jesus in Luke’s gospel, then, are not a new teaching. Jesus reminds his listeners of their own faith tradition and builds upon it. God continues to be faithful, continues to free us from whatever binds us. Continues to seek us out when we are lost in whatever way-lost because of injustice or indifference, because of poverty or violence, because of sin and greed.
Notice that each parable ends in exactly the same way: “Upon coming home the shepherd calls together friends and neighbors, saying to them “Rejoice with me…” When her coin is found, the woman calls together friends and neighbors, saying “Rejoice with me…”
This, I would argue, is what it means to be church. God invites us, individually and collectively to be a deep part of her faithful presence to the world and every person in it. She asks us to set aside our feelings of righteousness, our tribalisms and bigotries and to join in the rejoicing as each day we participate in the finding and the being found.
That is what this gathering and every gathering of believers-Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist-is all about. We are, for at least this moment, making ourselves available to be found. We allow ourselves to be touched by God’s continuous presence, to feel God’s compassion, to be moved to act with kindness, and courage as we reach out to those who are in need.
In this, there is “joy in the presence of the angels of God.”