Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 15 Sermon

“We are all in this together” is an old saying (true of the Apple Festival!). I have heard our own Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it this way, “We can be human only together.”

We are linked you and I, awash in this individualistic culture, its hard to remember that at times. The rugged individualism that in many ways defines our culture, for good and bad, tells us we are distinct and often forgets the bonds that unite us.

But it is scripture that reminds us that we are all connected. Remember the poor, the sick, the hungry, those in prison, they are part of the family too. Jesus tells us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, such love is played out in the parables we heard this morning…

Parable of the Lost Sheep & Lost Coin

-why leave 99 to find just 1, why search for one coin out of ten? Why does heaven rejoice when one sinner repents?

-parables of who God is, of God searching out for the lost, not let anyone or anything be lost.

-Because God is more merciful than we ever could be, God is more forgiving than we could be, God will always seek the one out who is lost, to bring everything back into wholeness.

It is the story of our lives, that by the grace of God we are saved; that God always seeks us out, wants no one lost, wants us to be complete. And the parable is true of us, that often we are the lost and we are the ones searching for the lost. I think of this true story I read on the internet:

Rachel had just begun a new job teaching children with severe learning and emotional difficulties in an inner-city school. The job was draining, often bringing her to tears - but she prayed each day that she could make a breakthrough to one broken soul.

Her most difficult charge was ten-year-old Kyle, the son of a drug-addicted mother, a boy with permanent scars along the side of his left arm from a beating with an extension cord when he was three. Kyle was given to angry, violent outbursts and running away.

Rachel and another teacher had planned a field trip for their students. But because of his behavior issues, Kyle would have to remain at school. Kyle flew into a rage, screaming, cursing, spitting, and swinging at anything within striking distance.

And then he did what he had done at other schools, at home, and once at a juvenile detention center: he ran. Kyle dashed out the door, straight into the heavy morning traffic.

And Rachel ran after him. She had no idea what she would say or do once - and if - she caught up with him. But she ran after Kyle.

Kyle ran for several blocks, dodging cars like a professional athlete. He was fast, but Rachel managed to stay with him. Finally he stopped, near a trash compactor behind a dilapidated strip mall. Bent over with exhaustion, he looked up, surprised to see his teacher running toward him. But when he saw Rachel, he did not run. He stayed still as Rachel approached. He calmed down; his anger and fear subsided. Rachel and Kyle locked eyes. Rachel willed every ounce of compassion and understanding in her heart toward his.

Before either could say a word, the principal of the school arrived with the police. Kyle would be taken for psychiatric evaluation. Rachel did not take her eyes off Kyle as he got into the car - and Kyle's eyes never left Rachel's.

Rachel later shared her disappointment at what had happened with Kyle's speech therapist who knew Kyle's history and family situation. The therapist placed her hand on Rachel's shoulder and said, "Rachel, no one ever ran after him before. No one. They just let him go."

Kyle eventually returned to school. He asked if he could return to Rachel's class. As the weeks passed, Kyle was glued to Rachel's side, complying with instructions, attempting to do his work - once even smiling. For a child with deep attachment issues, it was amazing to see Kyle finally developing a bond with someone - someone who ran after him. [From a story by Rachel Macy Stafford,]
Grace is the joy and fulfillment experienced by the shepherd who finds the lost lamb, the woman who recovers the missing coin, and a teacher who ran after a lost student. We are meant to be whole. We are meant to be connected. And it is the love that is behind it all, that led us to find the lost and be found when we are lost and be united. Amen.

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