15 September 2019
Searching in the hidden
places and responding
to God’s call to ministry
Sunday, 15 September 2019,
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII),
9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton
Readings: Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; I Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-10. There is a link to these readings HERE.
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
In our Gospel reading this morning, Christ speaks in three parables of things lost and found: the one lost sheep among 100; the one sinner who repents in contrast to the 99 righteous people; and the woman who has lost a small coin that others might not even bother to look for.
In the story of the shepherd who has 100 sheep and goes looking for one lost sheep, a rich man shows us how God behaves.
In the story of the woman who has ten silver coins, and who sweeps thoroughly through every dark corner of her house until she finds one lost coin, a poor woman shows us how God behaves.
The first image reminds me how in Achill I once heard about a shepherd who died on a cliff side as he went in search of a lost sheep, and slipped on the edge. A local man reacted by pointing out what a small price sheep fetched in the mart in those days.
When you do find a lost sheep, it has probably been caught in brambles, is full of dirt and matted with droppings. It is not a pleasant fluffy creature, as seen in so many stained glass windows. It may not even be worth bringing home, in the eyes of a shepherd or a sheep farmer. In its panic and distress, it will have lost weight, and may not be possible to sell.
We also have a poor woman who shows us how God behaves.
Ten drachmae might have been a nice sum of money at the time, but was one small coin worth all that time, worry and energy?
I was working in Greece some years ago at a time when the Drachma was being phased out as the national currency, and the Euro was being introduced.
As far as I remember, there were about 330 or 350 drachmae to the Euro. You could still exchange them until 2012, when you needed 587.5000 drachma to get €1.
So, a drachma in my days was worth about as much as a farthing. And when Greeks hear this morning’s Gospel reading, they hear about the woman sweeping her house, searching not for a valuable silver coin but for a tiny worthless coin, searching for a farthing.
The Greek text says not that she has ten silver coins, but that she has ten drachmae and has lost one.
When she finds it, she is rejoicing over very little. And when she throws a party to rejoice with her friends, it is going to cost her more than the rest of her savings if she only has 10 drachmae, it is going to cost abundant generosity, generosity that reflects the abundant generosity of God.
I came across a book a few years that took a light-hearted introduction to Classics, Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day (2008). But you probably would not have been able to even buy a bottle of retsina or a bottle of ouzo in ancient Athens for half of what this woman had saved.
And how the tax collectors who heard this parable (verse 1) must have laughed with ridicule! Finding a drachma certainly was not going to help the party spirit, never mind being worth considering for taxes and tax collecting.
Today is Vocations Sunday in the Church of Ireland.
Our Gospel story provides us with examples of varieties of people who respond to God’s call, who are caught up in God’s call: men and women, young and old, rural and urban, rich and poor, the valued and those who are without value in the eyes of others … even the person seen by others as a sinner cannot escape God’s call when it comes.
Ministry in the Church today is a response to series of calls to young and old, man and woman, rich and poor, those who are valued in society and those who are pushed to the margins, those who are important, and those who humble.
Recently, the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe produced a leaflet on Vocations, in which clergy in the diocese spoke in their own words about their call to ministry in their own words and tell their story of how they came to be ordained.
They ask: ‘How does God call his people to their vocations?’
Vocations are often hidden: either the person engaged in ministry is not recognised for what they are doing, or someone who has the call to ministry needs someone else to uncover, reveal that call, take a light and shine on it wherever it may be hiding.
These parishes may well survive without me. But they are not going to survive without your ministry. The ministry of welcome, hospitality, service; those of you serve on vestries, as wardens, looking after music, finances or buildings, those of you are the face of the church in local society, local life.
But the ministry of readers and priests is important for sustaining and encouraging those ministries, and for sustaining and maintaining the ministry of word and sacrament in the life of the Church.
This sort of ministry comes in many shapes and forms. It includes part-time and full-time commitments, and now in this diocese we are trying to encourage Ordained Local Ministry, where people continue to be involved in parish and local life, but help to sustain and grow the ministry of word and sacrament in one particular parish or group of parishes.
It may be for you. It may not be for you. But it is for each and every one of us to search out those we think may be called to one of these forms of ministry.
That could be your call. To seek out someone who has a call to ministry but it is unsure about, perhaps even afraid of it, afraid of the commitments or the consequences, or thinking like the lost sinner that God would never call them.
It may be your vocation to be like the shepherd who goes after than one sheep in 100, or the woman who sweeps out her house in search of that one lost coin among ten.
Think about it: it may be that your ministry is being well-exercised in this group of parishes, even though it may not be properly acknowledged or appreciated.
But it may also be your role, like that shepherd or that woman, to seek out that one precious person who is being called by God, but is afraid or embarrassed to answer the call.
An so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Luke 15: 1-10:
1 Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
3 So he told them this parable: 4 ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
8 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
Liturgical Colour: Green
The Collect of the Day:
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Collect of the Word:
O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,
you lead back to yourself all who go astray.
Preserve your people in your loving care,
that we may reject whatever is contrary to you
and may follow all things that sustain our life in your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.
The Collect for Vocations to Holy Orders:
you have entrusted to your Church
a share in the ministry of your Son our great High Priest:
Inspire by your Holy Spirit the hearts of many
to offer themselves for ordination in your Church,
that strengthened by his power,
they may work for the increase of your kingdom
and set forward the eternal praise of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
584, Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult (CD 33)
20, The King of love my shepherd is (CD 1)
105, O the deep, deep love of Jesus (CD 7)
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.