Sunday, September 26, 2010

Change (9/26/2010)

John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

September 26th, 2010

Gospel of Jesus 3:11-14
Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar,
The Gospel of Jesus (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 1999), p. 23.

As they were going along the road, someone said him,
“I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests;
but this mother’s child has nowhere to rest his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.”
But he said,
“First, let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him,
“Leave it to the dead to bury their own dead;
but you, go out and announce God’s imperial rule.”

9:57-60; Matthew 8:19-22; Thomas 86:1-2

I don't know where we ever got the idea that Jesus was gentle, meek, and mild. If these two sayings are authentic, Jesus is anything but gentle, meek and mild. He is aggressive, rude, and wild.

Let the dead bury their own dead!
You want to follow me, do you? Well, don't think it is all fun and games, pal. No soft pillows and three square meals with me. You'll be lucky if you eat or sleep. Even foxes and birds have a home. Not me, friend. No sir. This mother's son is always on the move, hunted day and night. The likes of you wouldn't last a week.

It's like spending a week in the wilderness with John Malkovich.

No sweet, lovable Jesus is this one.

And there is no way to spin these sayings that will take the edge off of them. These are hard sayings. Black and white. Do or die. In or out. 

Civil rights leader Malcolm X once was approached by a white college woman. She was inspired by hearing him speak and asked him what she could do to help Black Muslims and whites get together. Malcolm X told her she didn't have a ghost of a chance. She went away crying. 

That is what Jesus sounds like. An admiring fan says:
I'll follow you wherever you go.
Jesus simply replies:
Foxes have dens. Birds have nests. This mother's son has no where to lay his head.
In other words,
Forget it. You don't have a ghost of a chance following me.
Another time, Mark's gospel records an incident when Jesus is approached by a wealthy man who wants "eternal life." A modern way of saying it is that he is looking for a meaningful life.
What do I do? He asks Jesus.
Obey the commandments, Jesus tells him.

Done that.
Jesus says,

Well then, sell everything you have and follow me.
He cannot do that. Very few can. I certainly haven't. Have you? Even biblical literalists who think every passage in the Bible should be taken at face value (especially when they think it applies to someone else) find a way to ignore this story. Or they spin it beyond credibility.

The wealthy man turns away and leaves with a heavy heart, because the text says "he had many possessions."

Jesus is tough. There is no getting around that.

By the way, Malcolm X later regretted what he said to the white college girl. Malcolm X had matured. He had seen white students helping black people. He changed.

I wonder if Jesus ever mellowed. I don't know. He was executed at a young age. I would imagine that he was intense and remained so.

Let the dead bury their own dead.
You know what that means, right? He is telling the man to forget his family obligations. Perhaps like Jesus himself had done. He is telling this man to consider his family as dead to him.

Tough, tough. If this were to happen today, we would say Jesus was some kind of subversive leader and that his followers were crazed radicals. Perhaps not unlike the Weathermen. Remember them? They were radicals who in the 70s blew up buildings in order to call attention to the Vietnam War and other geopolitical and economic issues. 

They were important issues, certainly. The times were insane as well. The Weathermen thought that ordinary people would not appreciate the gravity of the world situation unless they did these radical acts. The members of the Weathermen, also called the "Weather Underground," severed all contact with family for years in order to undertake this mission.
Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and declare God's imperial rule.
That is what the Weathermen thought they were doing. They were on a mission to change the United States. 

They wanted social justice. 
They wanted economic justice. 
They wanted racial justice. 
They wanted peace.

You get an idea and it grows. It becomes an obsession. It becomes a mission. When does it change from becoming admirable and constructive to demonic and destructive?

The cynical answer to that question is that the change from admirable to demonic happens when you switch sides. The Islamic terrorists of today were the freedom fighters of the Reagan era. If you are with us you are freedom fighters. If you are against us you are terrorists. Like I say, that is a cynical answer.

Are we so postmodern that we cannot decide any truth, any right or wrong, any good from bad? Is it all point of view? Is it all politics? Whatever is good for my tribe is good and whatever is bad for my tribe is bad?

I think there is a way to determine when an idea changes from admirable to demonic. I think there was a time when idealist students changed from peaceful critique and demonstration to destructive action as the Weathermen. The Weathermen warned authorities before they blew up a building so people would have time to be evacuated. But it was still violent and destructive.

Jesus was non-violent. Except for his demonstration in the temple, when Jesus turned over tables, there is no evidence that the Jesus movement was a violent or a destructive one. The turning of the tables was more of a symbolic act. It was the event that likely got him killed.

It was subversive to be sure. He meant to overturn Empire. His political, economic, and social vision was counter to that of Empire and of his own religious leaders. He advocated for economic justice, social justice, and peace between ethnic groups. 

But his method was non-violent as best as I can tell.

That is the key. The seeds of violence and destruction grow. They produce bitter, poisonous fruit. It doesn't matter how just the ideal, violence poisons everything for many generations. That is the case if it is done by radicals or by armies.

The way of Jesus was a new way of living and being. 

It was an intense movement. Jesus was singly-focused. He meant it when he told his followers that life with him would be dangerous, without comforts, and without contact with family. Obviously, Jesus didn't think everyone would follow him. 

It is anachronistic after 2000 years when Jesus has become a mythological figure, the Cosmic Christ, the second person of the Trinity, to say that to be a Christian or a follower today means to become a homeless wanderer as the historical person was. Although, for some that might be what it means.

We can interpret these texts as symbol and metaphor. These texts are texts of change. They are texts of letting go. The Via Negativa or the way of letting go and letting be. Letting go of what? You have to make that decision. It could mean starting something very new.

As a globalized industrial society we are going to be letting go of a way of living that extracts and exploits and destroys our home. At some point we will let it go. It is happening now. We will be relating to Earth and to one another in a new way. We are needing to learn to live with Earth rather than against it. It will be better for us if we are pro-active and conscious about it, rather than just letting it happen. 

I think Jesus is going to become an important figure again as we live through this time of change. The stories about him and the stories he told may have a relevance that we may have missed before. There is a radical trust and a sense of purpose about Jesus. He is awake and alive. As Bob Funk says, he lives "without reservation into a completely open future." A Credible Jesus, p. 91

The reason I told some warning tales about the Weathermen, is that this "living without reservation" can be very destructive if it is not grounded in what is right and wrong. It is not enough to have a social, economic or political vision that is just, you must have ethical means that match that vision. For Jesus, it was non-violent resistance to oppression. Resist but do no harm.

It is time for the human race to let go of any illusion that we can bring in good things through violent means. We are not going to bring democracy to the Middle East through military action. 

We live in a highly militarized culture. There is a reason for that.

The following two sets of statistics are the most important I can think of to understand our situation. 

In oil we live and move and have our being. 
Everything in modern society is based on cheap oil. 

As Americans, we consume 18-20 million barrels of oil each day.
We extract 6-8 million barrels.
We need to import 10-14 million barrels. 
We are five percent of the population and we consume 25% of the world's oil.

You don't keep up that level of disparity without massive bullying. I don’t say that with the intention to offend. I'm just calling it as I see it. That is why we spend more on our military than the next 20 or so nations combined. 

Those of us with conscience, those of us who see the need for systemic change have our work cut out for us. All of us need to be involved in peace and sustainability movements at many different levels based on our own sense of what we want to do and can do.

Whether we are taking on mountain top removal mining, or supporting local food growers, finding ways to help ourselves and others reduce consumption, or learning and teaching about what life will be like post-peak oil, now is the time to see this work as spiritual work.

Growing a garden is a subversive, spiritual act.

Not everyone can do that. 
Not everything is for everyone. 
We find our own way.

When Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead” I think he was saying that there are those who cannot be helped because they refuse to see. As painful as that is, there comes a time to let go and move on with those who do see.

This is a spiritual path, the way of letting go. There is no better guide than the historical Jesus who taught us to travel lightly, to trust Earth, and to take each day as it comes.

We will find that it is a joyful and rewarding path.

In time of change, being awake is good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where Your Heart Is (9/19/2010)

Where Your Heart Is...
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

September 19th, 2010
International Day of Peace

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 
Matthew 13:45-46

Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself.
Thomas 76

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. And [when] he died he left it to his [son]. The son [did] not know about it either. He took over the field and sold it. The buyer went plowing, [discovered] the treasure, and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished."
Thomas 109

This is the final Sunday of summer. This is the final Sunday of the via positiva, the spiritual path of awe and wonder. Next week begins the via negativa or the path letting go. At some point this week I will post the worship themes for the next quarter. As always, as you look them over, you find that you have a creative element that fits, a poem, a song, something original or something you have found, let me know and I will include in the service.

We are spending time with the parables of Jesus. The two parables for today are about the joy of finding the kingdom. The parable of the pearl and the parable of the treasure. The parables are likely familiar to us. What might not be familiar is how weird they are.

The parables of the pearl and the treasure are found in two texts, the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Thomas. We have known since Christianity began about Matthew's parables. We have only known recently the versions in Thomas. But even though the Thomas version of each parable is less familiar, in the cases of the treasure and the pearl, the Matthew version of each is more weird, hence, I think, more original.

The pearl.

We all know this parable. It is famous. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a collection of scriptures that are believed to be revelations to Joseph Smith that is called, "The Pearl of Great Price."

We all know the traditional meaning of the parable. The spiritual life, the kingdom of God, is so valuable that we should value and pursue it above all else with single-minded devotion. It is worth more than everything you have.

Yep. OK. We have heard that before.

Well…wait a second. I think it is a little weirder than that.

Pearls are exotic things. They would not have been a part of a first century Jewish peasant's life except as a symbol of wealth. Some interpreters have suggested that merchants (especially those who deal in pearls) would have been of a higher class than the typical peasant audience of Jesus. Pearls are of the world of the rich and famous. Jesus may have been setting his audience up for a spoof. As in...
"See what the silly rich do."
You never quite know with the parables of Jesus.
Do we take him at face value or is he spoofing standard ideas and setting us up to see things differently?
Keep that in mind.

Here is the version in Thomas:
Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself.
The guy makes a good business deal. He has some merchandise, finds a pearl. He is prudent because he sells the merchandise and buys the pearl. We might assume that he will sell the pearl someday when he gets a good price for it. We are told he is prudent. He is wise. He has made a good deal.

Here is the version in Matthew:
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
It is very close.
Practically the same.
Except that the editorial insertion that the merchant is "prudent" is missing.
The other difference is that we are told he "sold all that he had." 

, on the other hand, makes sure we know that he sold only his merchandise or his inventory.

Matthew doesn't say that. In Matthew's version, he sold everything he had. It is the difference between being prudent and being a fool. I think Thomas is an elaboration and Matthew's version is closer to the original.

The weird version is the one most familiar to us.
We just didn't know it was weird.
Why is it weird, you ask?

If the merchant sells everything he has, not just his merchandise as Thomas says, but everything--merchandise, house, belongings, everything, and buys a pearl, then his only possession is this pearl.

What does he do for an encore?

What does he do the next day?

Where does he sleep?
What does he eat?
What does he buy and sell with?
He has nothing except a pearl.
It is a pearl of great value, but what is it worth if it is all you have?
You can't eat it. You can't sleep under it.
All you can do is pull it out of your pocket and admire it while you slowly starve to death.

The merchant is not prudent. He is a fool. His only options are to sell it again or to live as a homeless beggar who happens to have a pearl.

The kingdom of God?
Chew on that one, says Jesus.

Brandon Scott, who will be with us in October for the Jesus Seminar on the Road, writes this regarding the pearl:

…the thing of value, the pearl, has no ultimate value….The kingdom cannot be possessed as a value in itself…and that is the kingdom's corrupting power--the desire to possess it. P. 319

We will come back to the pearl. But let's go to the treasure.

We know this parable as well. It is the same message as the other one. A guy finds treasure in a field. Buries it, sells what he has and buys the field. The traditional meaning is that the spiritual life, Jesus, God, whatever is your treasure. It is worth more than everything we have.

Well…wait a second. I think it is a little weirder than that.

Finding hidden treasure is the first century version of winning the lottery. Burying treasure was not that unusual before widespread use of banks. When Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, many people before leaving hid their valuables by burying them, hoping to come back and find them one day. The first century historian, Josephus, writes about this:
Yet was there no small quantity of the riches that had been in that city still found among its ruins, a great deal of which the Romans dug up; but the greatest part was discovered by those who were captives, and so they carried it away; I mean the gold and the silver, and the rest of that most precious furniture which the Jews had, and which the owners had treasured up under ground, against the uncertain fortunes of war. --Josephus, Jewish War, 7.5.2, Scott, Re-Imagine the World, p. 48.
Here is the Thomas version of the parable:
Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. And [when] he died he left it to his [son]. The son [did] not know about it either. He took over the field and sold it. The buyer went plowing, [discovered] the treasure, and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished."
The owner of the field didn't know he had treasure in it and leaves it to his son.
Neither does his son know about the treasure.
He sells it.
The new owner who also didn't know only finds it after he buys the field and goes plowing one day. He finds the treasure in his own field that he has purchased.
He gets wealthy and lends money at interest.

That version is quite a bit different than the one we have in Matthew:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.'
This is one we are familiar with but we might not know how weird it is.
In Thomas the finder of the treasurer owns the field.
In Matthew the finder of the treasure does not own the field.
That is a big difference.

If you went poking around in your neighbor's yard and found a stash of cash that your neighbor didn't know about, then re-buried it, and went and bought your neighbor's yard from her, what would that be?

That would be fraudulent.
That is insider trading.
It is stealing.
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
You are in a peasant village.
Everybody knows everybody else's business.
You sold everything you have.
You have this treasure.
But if you start spending it, do you think no one will raise an eyebrow?
Here is a guy with a field and treasure that he secured by fraudulent means that he can't spend or he will be found out. Foolish.

Even if you were able to find some way of laundering your new found treasure, we have an ethical problem.

How is the kingdom of God like this?

Maybe we will find out in October when Brandon Scott and Art Dewey of the Jesus Seminar visit with us for a Jesus Seminar on the Road. They will be talking about Jesus' parables.

Scott, by the way, in his book, Re-Imagine the World has this to say about this parable:
Treasure is normally a metaphor for God's blessing as a reward for a righteous life. This parable is a brilliant image of seduction. The hidden treasure, which should be a reward for good deeds, seduces the man without his thinking into a course of action that has an immoral outcome….the parable provides a warning: finding treasure can create a joy that seduces us into an action that is heedless of its consequences. P. 54
So we are left with two parables in which the characters are not admirable. They are foolish at best, and in one case, unethical.

A man has a pearl of great value. But he has nothing else. The pearl of great value has no value unless he sells it again and then he's back to where he was.

Another has treasure that he secured by unethical means and now he sits in his field with his guilty conscience trying to figure out how he will spend his ill-gotten treasure without being found out.

Thus we have two fools who tried to possess the kingdom.

Maybe that is the spoof.

Maybe the kingdom of God is not treasure in a field or a pearl of great price.
It is not something we must single-mindedly and doggedly pursue forsaking life, forsaking ethics.

Jesus said elsewhere and the Gospel of Luke recorded it:
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ --Luke 17:20-21
The Gospel of Thomas records Jesus saying something similar:
Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you. --Saying 3

Split a piece of wood, I am there. Lift up a stone, you will find me there. --Saying 77
In other words, you are already there. 
 is already here. You don't need to switch religions.
You don't need to follow someone else's plan for happiness.
You don't need to wear a hairshirt.
You don't need to single-mindedly pursue an abstraction.
You don't need to sell all your possessions and join the church.
You certainly don't need to take from another.

The realm of God or Life or Happiness or whatever it is you think you need to find is not out there to be found.

It cannot be possessed or claimed even if or when you think you have found it.
It can only be noticed and shared.

Life is.
Life is here.
Life is now.
Life is change.
Enjoy and share the ride.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Creation: In the Right Time (9/12/2010)

Today was Music Sunday. I am blessed to serve an incredibly gifted bunch of folks. The music was fantastic. We mixed it with some poetry, and I included a poem of sorts that I had put together over ten years ago.

Creation: In the Right Time
May 30th, 1999
August 28th, 2005 (revised)
September 12th, 2010 (revised)

John Shuck
First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, TN

"The most important question before us is whether the universe is friendly.”
--Albert Einstein

“And God saw that it was good.”
--a refrain from Genesis 1

In the beginning…
Is there a beginning?
Before beginnings,
Before time,
Outside of space—
In the right time,
When Mystery began to move,
A small speck,
Smaller than an electron,
Smaller than a quark,
A tiny speck existed.
This tiny particle contained all the mass and energy of existence.

Mystery moved and the particle exploded
And the Universe burst forth.

Time and space,
All that is…became.
In a flash of energy,
In a flash of light,
In a vibration of sound,
Ten to the billionth power of an atomic explosion
Is but a drop in the ocean

Compared to the energy created by Mystery.

Cascading light,
And searing heat danced around and around and out.
Spinning and twirling for millions of years—
The fireworks of Mystery,
Dancing to its symphony.
In the right time these dancers gathered
Gathered and gathering,
Neutrons, protons, electrons
Hydrogen and Helium forming in the right time
Balls of light and heat
Pulling and pushing mass and energy into their dance.
Stars and planets and solar systems and galaxies
Danced to the music of Mystery.

They found their rhythms,
Their paths and their orbits and their place.

In the right time,
Certain solar systems and certain planets
because of their size and the distance from their suns,
were found suitable for something more.
One such planet,
An ordinary blue dot in the suburbs of the Milky Way gave birth.

(There may be many other planets who are also life-giving—
Maybe someday those who wonder will be rewarded—
In the right time—
But for now we know of this one.)

Mystery moved,
And this one planet,
The third from its sun,
Was covered with a thick organic soup.
Hydrogen and Oxygen combined in the right parts,
And Carbon swam with them and the basics of Life joined the dance.

As Mystery moved through the soup,
millions and millions of complex organisms were born.
They all knew a different song and they lived and they died.
Some species survived,
Some did not.
All in their time.

In the right time, the land masses formed,
The continents shifted,
Foliage appeared and new creatures were formed and
Moved from water to land.

Time passed and Mystery kissed the earth—
Slowly, slowly, hundreds of millions of years passed.
Life changed little by little,
Finally, huge beasts joined the dance.
The Triceratops and the Brontosaurus,
Pterodactyls and Tyrannosaurus Rex

Lumbered to the music of Mystery.
And these great beasts ruled the earth,
Until nature shifted, and the time came when they were no more.

Mystery moved through all the changes of creation,
Sometimes suddenly, usually slowly,
New species evolved from older species

In the right time,
The hominoids evolved from their ancestors.
They struggled and they changed and adapted to their surroundings.
Mystery moved through all these changes and
Blessed these creatures.

As they were ready in the right time,
They developed skills to master their surroundings.
They discovered tools, fire, and communication.
They developed abstractions like thought, reflection,
wonder, puzzlement, love, and

A desire to seek Mystery.

Mystery blessed this desire and sought out those humans
Who were sensitive to Mystery to tell stories about who they were,
And how they came to be, and what they might yet do.
People like Abraham and Sarah, Rachel and Jacob told their story.

Mystery was called by different names in
Different languages in different places—

The Great Spirit, Marduk, the Goddess, Brahman,
The Holy One of Israel, God, Christ, Allah,
The No-Thing, the Ground of Being.
But Mystery is elusive, not allowing a name to tame it,
Allowing no human to claim it for a possession.

Mystery allows but a glimpse, a darkened mirror.
Yet Mystery blesses all who seek, who quest for the truth.
Mystery seeks out those who are sensitive to it.
Sometimes Mystery calls us through stillness—
Silent as a Spruce stretching for the sun—
Sometimes is speaks in the cries of the hungry and destitute—
Sometimes it rolls with easy laughter.
Mystery moves—as Earth changes, as the Universe changes—
As human beings change.
Mystery shows us that there is much more than what we see.
There is much, much more to come.

In the right time.

And it is good.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Celebrate While You Have the Coin (9/5/2010)

Celebrate While You Have the Coin
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

September 5, 2010

Luke 15:8-9

Jesus asked this question:
“Is there any woman with ten silver coins,
who if she loses one,
wouldn’t light a lamp and sweep the house
and search carefully until she finds it?
When she finds it,
she invites her friends and neighbors over and says,
‘Celebrate with me,
because I have found the silver coin I had lost.’”

Would you do it?

If you lost a coin, and you managed to find it,
would you invite your neighbors over and throw a party for them?

"What woman wouldn’t?" Jesus asks.

Truth be told, I am not sure if I would.
I am probably more stingy than that.

Keep that in mind.
That is one question the parable is asking of us:
Would you throw a party?
Or another question:
Are you worth a party?
This parable is only found in Luke’s Gospel.
In Luke it is paired with the parable of the man who had 100 sheep and loses one.
He goes and searches until he finds it and then invites the neighbors over for a party.

Then Luke adds the parable of the man who had two sons.
The younger takes his inheritance squanders it,
returns home and is welcomed by the Father who invites the neighbors
 for a party.

Getting the theme?
Party on.

Also in Luke’s setting are a bunch of religious people who don’t like parties.
They are the Pharisees and the Scribes.
This is the setting:
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
In response to that Jesus tells the three parables,
the man searching for the lost sheep,
the woman searching for the lost coin,
and the Father welcoming the lost son.

It is likely that the parables of the lost sheep and coin had lives of their own.
We find versions of the lost sheep in Matthew (18:10-14) and Thomas (saying 107),
and each of those gospels uses the parable in different ways.

The coin parable is unique.
We only find it in Luke.
Scholars kick it back and forth as to whether Luke invented the parable or not.
It seems more likely to me that it was independent and used by Luke.

It sounds similar to this rabbinic parable in the Midrash Rabbah:
If a man loses a sela or an obol in his house (those are ancient terms for shekel or coin), he lights lamp after lamp, wick after wick, till he finds it. Now does it stand to reason: if for these things which are only ephemeral and of this world a man will light so many lamps and lights till he finds where they are hidden, for the words of Torah which after the life both of this world and the next world, ought you not to search as for hidden treasures?
--Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear Then The Parable, p. 312.
The point of that story is to admonish you spend your time and your effort searching for that which is sacred, wise, and good, since you do at least that much for things of this world.

There is certainly an echo with Jesus’ parable to the parable in the Midrash.

What about this coin?
Is it valuable?

The coin is a drachma, equal in value to the denarius.
It was probably worth about as much as a peasant laborer would make in one day.
Certainly not much, unless you are a peasant.

One would not imagine Caesar sweeping his house with his lamp lit searching for a lost drachma.

Some have suggested that after she finds it, she spends it on the party for her neighbors and friends.
That is the spirit, isn’t it?
What is the value of a coin besides what it can buy and do?
What is more valuable than a celebration with friends?
A celebration with friends may be the kingdom of God.

Some have suggested that the ten coins might have been her dowry.
The custom was to wear these coins like jewelry.
We might think that losing one coin would be like losing part of an earring or other piece of jewelry that is an heirloom.
It would have value beyond actual monetary value.
The parable doesn’t say that, but it opens us up to explore that.

Parables are open-ended.
We can enter the parable by taking the part of different characters.
We can in this case, be the woman.
We can be the coin.

If we are the woman we can imagine losing something of great value,

perhaps even a part of ourselves.
What do we do?
We light a lamp.
We seek clarity and vision.
We sweep carefully with our broom.
We do the diligent work of self-discovery.

Perhaps you might have lost something.
Something of yourself.
Maybe you have lost some happiness.
Maybe worries have taken away your lightheartedness.
Maybe you have lost trust or passion.

Maybe you don't know what you have lost.
This parable is the invitation to light a lamp for clarity and insight and sweep away the dirt and debris and find that lost coin.

Images of lighting lamps and sweeping are images of discovery and soul-searching.
When you find that part of you that has been lost, you are whole again.
You cannot keep that to yourself.
You share it.
You celebrate with others.The parable may invite that type of exploration.
For what am I searching.
What is the lamp?
What is my broom?
How am I engaging in this search?
When I find it, what will I do to celebrate?

Maybe you have already found what you lost.
You just need to have the party.

Celebrate while you have the coin.

We can also be the coin.
There isn’t much we can do as a coin, which is a lesson as well.
As a coin, we can only be, and be found.
The parable does want to show us that the coin is not of high value in terms of Wall Street.
This coin, while having little value to Empire, has great value to this woman.

The value of the coin is shown in the parable by her diligence, effort, and celebration.
The parable reminds us that those things and perhaps people that don’t seem so important and valuable are sought after by the Universe.
The woman lighting a lamp and sweeping in search of the lost is a metaphor for the Divine search for every soul.
No soul is without value.
No person is without value.

This parable may be for you if you are feeling a bit down,
a bit lost, not thinking you are very important.

"Who cares about me and my problems?"
Well...the Goddess cares.

Even as we may feel like an old copper penny,
the Divine Wisdom Woman is diligently searching us out.
Her lamp is lit.
Her broom is sifting through the dirt.
She won’t stop until she finds us.

When She gathers us there will be great rejoicing and a party in our honor!

And the party is what it's all about.