I thought speaking about a parable would be fairly straightforward so I put up my hand. I said, Pick me. Sign me up. This sounds fun.”
I was wrong. This has been neither straightforward nor fun. I started my week by reading the Parable of the Lost Coin. I choose this parable for two reasons. First because it is short – only two little verses and secondly because the main character is a woman. I like short. I like women. So it seemed like a no-brainer.
After reading the parable, I decided to get my Google on and see what other people thought about the Lost Coin. This was a very bad idea. After two hours of reading sermons, articles and blogs with dozens of different interpretations regarding this blessed lost coin, I could no longer separate my own thoughts and ideas about this parable from those of my Google search.
So I thought I would clear my head and begin at the beginning. I would look up the definition of a parable in one of the recommended reference books. I was certain Klyne R. Snodgrass’ “Stories with Intent – A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus” would have all the answers I needed. The words “comprehensive guide” seemed promising. But I was wrong again.
I was happy to find this fairly straight forward definition towards the end of the chapter entitled “What is a Parable”, “A parable is an expanded analogy used to convince and persuade,” but I also found these gems:
- The importance of the parables of Jesus can hardly be overestimated.
- Possibly no definition of parables will do, for any definition that is broad enough to cover all the forms is so imprecise that it is almost useless.
- The parables are among the most abused and mistreated stories ever told – the have been twisted, shortened, subverted, realigned and psychologized for centuries by pastors and scholars alike.
So if pastors and scholars can totally make a mess of interpreting a parable, what the heck am I going to do to it? I closed Snodgrass’ book and looked up Robert Capon – another recommended resource. He starts with:
“Most of the time we get the parables of Jesus wrong.”
At this point my confidence and resolve are plummeting at an exponential rate. But Capon continues on,
“We pick them up, and we think that Jesus is telling us what we ought to do. You know, they’re sort of lessons in loveliness. If we can master the lesson in the parable, we can turn out to be perfect peaches or something else. But the point is that parables are not first of all about us. The parables of Jesus are first of all about how God works in this world – the mysterious, strange, bizarre, odd way that God deals with us, because the parables are very strange things. Jesus is a genius of story-telling, and what you have to watch most of all with Jesus in his parables are the small twists, the little turns and the details you don’t notice. I can have read a parable for twenty-five years, preached on it twenty-five times, and in the twenty-sixth year all of a sudden see something I never saw before; and it has been buried there all along.”
And just like that I was back on track. I read the parable of the Lost Coin again and again with one thought, “What can I learn about God?”
And here is the parable:
“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”
Luke 15: 8-10 The Message
So here’s what I got from it this time around. The woman is God. We are the coin. We probably don’t know we are lost. But God knows and He is searching for us. Oh and when He finds here is a big ole party!
The Parable of the Lost Coin is sandwiched between the Parable of the Lost Sheep and The Parable of the Lost Son. In all three parables, someone is searching for something or someone lost. When the something or someone is found there is a call to celebrate – and not celebrate alone but celebrate with others.
My new friend Capon has this to say about theses parables:
“A lost coin never knows it’s lost. One place is as good as another. The point is that what these two parables put together say is that what governs God’s behavior to us is not our sins. It’s not our problems. It’s his need to find us. These parables go by the need of the finder to find, not about the need of the lost to be found. That’s obvious. We always knew that. We could have gone to our graves knowing that. The great thing is that the universe is driven by the need of the finder to find all of us in our lostness. And that, of course, is the beginning.”
During my Google search I saw a bit of the twisting and subversion of this parable. One fellow preached about the value and origin of the coin – like how much would it have been worth and was it part of the woman’s bridal jewellery. Another writer suggested that the main character of the parable is a woman because she represents the church and the church is always referred to as a female. As a feminist, I was going to get all irritated about this until I read his next three paragraphs which then detailed the importance of sweeping and dust in this parable and the Old Testament so this crazy talk enabled me to dismiss his dismissiveness about women.
And I realized for me this parable is about God’s need to find his beloved children. He is so crazy about us that he will go to any length to find us. We are all lost. So what is required of us when God finds us? My guess is that we should probably recognize our need to be found by Him, enter into a relationship with Him and strive to be like Him – reconciling and restoring relationships with those around us – we are basically joining the lost and found party.
I was once part of a lost and found party. Back in the day I was a highland dancer. My friends and I would often dance at legions and nursing homes. My Mom chauffeured us to where we needed to be and was usually rewarded with a plate of haggis or some other Scottish delicacy. At one of these events my Mom lost a gold earring. She didn’t realize it was lost until we got home that night. She was pretty upset about losing it as the earrings had been a gift from my Dad. We headed back to the hall first thing the next morning before the janitor got there to clean. My friends and I crawled around on our hands and knees searching for the lost earring and to be honest, I didn’t think we had a hope but after about thirty minutes of searching someone found it. My Mom was super happy and I remember feeling good too – partly because she was so happy but also because it seemed like a mission impossible and yet we had found it.
I sometimes think this God lost and found party is a mission impossible. Like if we are supposed to be restoring and reconciling the relationships around us and helping others get unlost, I’m kind of sucking at it. I have shared my personal “lost coin” experience with a couple of people in my life. And I continue to live alongside them hoping they ask more questions or that by witnessing my life they too will become unlost. But in typical fashion, I once again forget about God. I forget that God is unrelenting in his pursuit of us and will go to drastic lengths to find the lost. It doesn’t all fall on my shoulders. Not even close.
Another great quote from Capon:
“We cannot get away from the love that will not let us go because God, who in all these parables represented by the shepherd, and the woman, and the father, never ceases to seek and to find the lost.”
” We cannot get away from the love that will not let us go.” I love that. I always need to remind myself that I am a precious, beloved daughter of God. It’s so hard to imagine that with billions of people in the world that God cares that deeply for me and wants to keep me close. He knew I was lost. And he came to find me.
I should probably end on this warm fuzzy note but I just can’t. There is a question that has been lurking in the back of my mind while writing this. Why did it take God thirty-eight years to find me? I had been looking for him for a good twenty-five years – like really looking. I went to church looking for Him. I asked the church people about Him. I tried to find him in my King James Bible. I looked for him in my bible study group. I looked everywhere. So if he was looking for me and I was looking for Him, why the heck did it take so long?
I made a little video to help me sort through this question.
I have so many questions – questions about why it took twenty-five years for me to meet God, questions about Jesus, questions about heaven, questions about timing, death, life, my kids, my work, my purpose – you get the picture. And I probably won’t get a whole bunch of answers any time soon. In fact, my list of questions will only grow. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am a precious, beloved daughter of God. I was lost and now am found.
And as far as parables go I’m not stressing about them anymore. I will try not to abuse or mistreat them. But I will revisit them. One last thought:
But the parables of Jesus do not go quietly into the night; they powerfully and stubbornly keep demanding new attention and keep expressing their message. Ultimately they are resistant, saying in effect, “Read me again.” – Robert Capon