Throughout Lent, our practice at St. Brigids is not for the preacher to preach, but to leave the congregation with three troubling questions. This week’s questions are in response to the gospel reading (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32).
Growing up in the church that I did, I experienced and participated in a lot of talk about The Lost. About those who had lost their way, lost their path, who had lost their faith.
The ultimate concern, of course, was how we could bring them back into the fold. There’s an element of that concern that is incredibly touching. And there’s an element that I also find troubling too.
We talked about them – the lost – and reacted to their lack of presence at church in a variety of ways. We prayed, we sought to convince through apologetics and rehearsed arguments (and so on, and so on).
All of this because we were worried.
We were worried for those who were lost. And we were worried about the consequences of their lostness. Not least of which was eternal separation from God, and whatever hell that would be.
But this weekend, gathered with members of this St. Brigids community at Rivendell on Bowen Island brought some new perspective to the whole idea of lostness. On retreat we spent the entire weekend – over meals and coffee and walks through the woods – thinking about who we are. And more importantly, whose we are.
Marnie led us through several sessions focused on Baptism in which we explored this foundational Christian rite and symbol. And through that exploration, we wrestled with what it means to be chosen by and beloved of God from the beginning.
We wrestled with how the statement of our belovedness could be true. We brought to our own experiences of the church to the conversation. We brought in the ways in which we have been reminded by other Christians, by Christian leaders, and by the church that WE are beloved of God. Or Not.
We thought about our calling. What it means to live in response to the God who loved us before we even knew God’s name.
Reading through the Parables of the Lost this weekend, I found myself hearing them in a slightly different way because of the honesty of these conversations.
While the lectionary cuts out one of the parables of the lost, Luke Chapter 15 contains three such parables. The parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son(s).
What I found most interesting is that the first two parables explicitly state that the main character loses, and then finds first the sheep, and then the coin. After the parables of a lost sheep and a lost coin, I wonder why we so easily jump to the conclusion that the son lost himself.
And so, as is our practice during Lent, I want to leave us with three lingering and troubling questions:
- How does our understanding of the parable change if, as in the first two stories, it’s the Father who loses and searches for something – namely his son(s).
- The chapter begins with the Religious Leaders grumbling, and ends with the eldest son’s tantrum. Where do you see this reaction to The Lost Being Found playing out in the world today? How does it make you feel?
- Playing off of Alisdair’s question from last week, what does abundant life look like in light of these parables?