The Gospel today is filled with questions, questions that beg answers, questions offering numerous possibilities.
The problem with the questions posed by Jesus in today’s Gospel is that, unlike his original hearers, we already know the answers.
What Shepherd having 100 sheep …
The answer of course is any shepherd would leave the 99 and go in search of the lost sheep, that is IF you are already privy to Jesus’ way of thinking about things.
We know that the shepherd, who is God, seeks out the lost and brings the sinner home.
But if you are looking at this question from another angle, perhaps the angle of Jesus’ original hearers, a different answer is certainly in order.
What shepherd having 100 sheep ..
The answer is NO INTELLIGENT SHEPHERD.
Who would risk leaving 99 sheep to the elements or the wolves to go after one? Count the one as a loss and move on. Shepherding is a calculus of loss and gain. It’s not worth the risk.
It’s not rational, but that may very well be the message of the Gospel, love trumps reason.
And what woman having lost a coin …
From the other side of the Gospel, of course, she would sweep the house, but in fact, it may not be worth a day’s baking, a day’s washing, a day’s work. Count the coin as a loss and move on. Sweeping is a calculus of loss and gain. It’s not worth the risk It’s not rational, but that may very well be the message of the Gospel, love triumphs over reason.
And what Father …
What father would give away half his fortune to a son who had the impunity to ask for it, the irresponsibility to take it, and the insolence to spend it on loose women, drugs and booze.
And then what father would sit on the porch and wait for the boy to come home so he could run out to meet him, wrap his arms around him, and reward him. Certainly no reasonable father. Count the son as a loss and move on. After all, I have another more responsible son. Fathering is a calculus of loss and gain. It’s not worth the risk.
It’s not rational, but that may very well be the message of the Gospel, love tramples reason. Love triumphs over reason. Love trumps reason every time.
Love always trumps pure reason, not because we should be irrational if we want to be disciples of Jesus but because there is more to the human and divine experiences than pure reason. Not everything makes sense. Not everything in Jesus’ world can be covered, uncovered, recovered through the application of the pure principles of law. As Cardinal Newman once said: I do not want to be converted by a smart syllogism .
Reason shows us what is possible and impossible
Love shows us that with God all things are possible
Love reaches out
Love cauterizes with the burning zeal of the real.
Love catapults us to the threshold of revelation
Reason fixes our minds
Love frees our minds
Reason tells us that we have nothing before us here but bread and wine and not very good bread and wine at that.
Reason tells us that the one whom we worship cannot be God and a man at the same time
Reason tells us that one is never three and three is never one.
But love tells us that at this altar we come into contract with the very source of Love, Jesus the savior who died for us and whose sacrifice of love is revisited in this place
Love tells us that the living God engages humanity, died for humanity, rose for humanity and is ever searching, sweeping, waiting for humanity
Love tells us that the love of God experienced in the life of the Holy Trinity, the unfeigned love, the reasonable and unreasonable love, the pure love is our inheritance, ours to squander, ours to replenish in our unending, unendable return to the father’s arms.
We celebrate a feast of love that doesn’t always make sense, in purely rational terms, but rather cavorts along the edges of our minds to penetrate the very cords of our hearts, our imaginations
Love that improvises on the rational harmonics of our experience, that riffs our melodies.
This is a feast of love that doesn’t subvert rationality, but reminds us daily in small things that there is more to us than that.
This is a feast of love that calls us in our consuming the bread of angels to become bread, become bracing wine, and become love for one another.
And how does that look shepherds?
How does that look sweepers?
How does that look future fathers of America?
It looks like concern that prompts detour when our eyes should be fixed on the prize
It looks like smiles of understanding in times of doubt and trouble
It looks like men willing to reach out always in service to the other when the world tells us to take care our ourselves
It feels like the embrace of strength on shaking shoulders
It feels like a hand lifting us up when we have fallen, slid so low
It feels like the trample of feet running to meet God in running to meet a brother, a sister in need
It seems like craziness in the pure desire to give more, to offer more, more, more, more
It seems like the old questions are no longer meaningful and we possess answers to questions we have never asked.
It seems like our world is slipping away, that our rationality is slipping away and we are falling, falling down the slope of compassion, falling into the passion of Christ
By grace this community is built upon the foundation of that sacrificial love
Here we search for the lost sheep, knowing that the 99 are in the hands of God
Here we sweep the house for the lost coin of vocation knowing that the bread will be baked and the washing will be done, by God, yes, by God
Here we welcome again and again the prodigal, the stubborn, the proud, the repentant, the unrepentant, the sinner and the saint with the firm faith, the blessed assurance that love triumphs over reason as surely as we can make no sense of the cross of Jesus but gazing on it know that there is one real thing, one true thing, one honest thing, one unselfish thing left in the world and we have access to that, access to the point that we may finally come to realize that the rationality of the Kingdom is in fact our ability to unite our reasonable minds, our bodies, our being sheep, coins, lost boys to the blazing reality of that same cross, to know that the rationality of the kingdom is love
We know the answers, and we are compelled to live them, beginning here at this altar, drawing from the magnificent font of His love, the strength, the courage, and faith to be shepherds, sweepers, fathers in a lost world.