“Where is my coin?” The woman wonders. Perhaps it is only one coin, but it is a coin that she cherished and treasured. She thought that she had just left it on the table but when she went over to grab it wasn’t there.
“What?? Where is it?” She thinks. Immediately, she grabs a lamp and goes through her whole house looking for it. On her hands and knees, the woman investigates every inch of the floor. On her tip toes, she flings open every cabinet.
Every part of her house is examined until at last, the woman discovers what she is looking for. With trembling hands, the woman picks up the coin, clutches it close to her heart and goes running to the streets gathering up every friend and neighbor and stranger she can find, crying, shouting, saying, “Rejoice with me!!! I have found my coin, that was lost and know is found.”
The woman’s voice interrupts the lives of those around her, seeping into the houses past the shut doors and closed windows, to those who had fallen asleep on the street side, to those who busily pass her on the streets. This woman’s voice wakes the people up, inviting them to pause from their worries and their wanderings to relish the wonder of the moment. To breathe in the aroma of its loveliness.
“Rejoice with me.”
In the words of the American poet William Carlos William, “If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem.” God came to earth in the form of Jesus to dwell with us because we just happen to be God’s joy, because delight is what occupies God and God is hoping that we join on in.
“Rejoice with me.”
I keep picturing the woman who found her cherished coin and wonder how exactly she celebrated. I wonder if she danced. I wonder if she was so full of joy that she could not help but start moving her arms, her legs, her body in celebration.
I found myself pondering that this week as I watched a video of a flash mob at the Mount Holyoke College convocation, which is a for the students that marks the beginning of the school year. In the middle of the convocation, the teachers and academic deans spread out into the crowd as a speaker addresses the student. In closing, their speaker invites them to laugh and sing, and then suddenly the song “I Can’t Stop This Feeling” starts to play, beginning with the words, “I got this feeling inside my bones.” Immediately, the professors start to dance and hundreds of students stand up and join them… the whole crowd moves to the beat, from the oldest professor in their seventies to the young college students to the animal mascot.
Everyone moved differently to the song, some were a little off beat, some knew the moves and others didn’t. But still everyone danced.
It strikes me that there is so often a fear that says to us, “Don’t dance, be self-conscience, you have to do it right, you have to do it a certain way or you won’t fit in.”
Yet these people throw off the notion that there is anything there was anything that they were called to do or become and just are. In the words of the song, they just dance, dance, dance.
There’s a freedom to their movement as they proclaim through their motions that what ultimately has claim on their life is not judgment but joy. Not fear but delight. Not death but life, life, life.
This dance of life is the one that I imagine the woman doing as she celebrates the return of her coin. She thought it was lost. She had been so sure it had been lost. But now it is found and gratitude runs through her veins. What defines her celebration is not social conventions of priority and order but the call of the Gospel on her life.
Maybe we too are invited to dance, dance, dance.
But how do we do that?
I attended a worship service at a house church once and, after the service and communion, the two leaders just playfully danced around for a minute. They called it a dance for resurrection, and invited the rest of to join in and I just looked on hesitantly because well, is it proper? Can you really dance in church? What if I did wrong? What would others think of me?
These questions are the similar to the ones with which the Pharisees are wrestling in today’s passage. Jesus has been feasting and celebrating with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees look on hesitantly because they wonder: Is this proper? Should Jesus really be eating with outsiders? Is he living his faith the wrong way? Doesn’t he care about what others think about him?
Jesus responds to their grumbles by telling the story of the woman and the lost coin, the shepherd and the lost sheep and Jesus issues this invitation: “Rejoice with me”
In his story telling, Jesus is asking them, “Do you see? Do you see that the heart of a faith-full life is not judgement but joy? Like a woman searching for her treasured coin, I go out to the margins of society and delight in the people before me. I relish their beauty. I soak in their loveliness.”
“Do you see?”
“Do you see that I delight in the way that the way that Peter decided to follow me even though he didn’t have his stuff together? And the way that the woman at the well helped me even though she didn’t know who I was? Do you see that I delight in the way that the man freed from the seven demons went back to his community to tell the story of his healing, even though it was hard? And the way that even though the disciples never quite get it, they show up and are faithful? And even when they are not faithful, I see the hunger in their hearts, to try again, to begin again.”
Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, saying, “I see you hunger too. No matter how lost you get, or how far your wander, you are always invited back into relationship, into love, into joy. Like the woman searching for her treasured coin, I will always come to get you, reminding you that you are God’s delight. That God finds poetry in you. That God doesn’t care what anyone thinks, God will dance and jive in celebration of your return, again and again, because God treasures you and holds close to God’s own heart.”
What strikes me about Jesus’ story about the lost sheep and coin is that the coin or the sheep don’t have to do anything to be restored to relationship. All they have to do is be open to the Greater Seeker’s love, grace and delight in being present with them.
It’s like a story I once heard from Glennon Doyle Melton, who compares God’s grace to an experience she had with an ice cream truck. On a hot summer day as a kid, she stands in line was at a neighbor pool waiting to buy ice cream. The ice cream person is selling Popsicles for a dollar each, while a high school kid who has broken into the truck is passing out free Popsicles from the back. The ice cream man hasn’t a clue what’s going on behind him. With others are busy judging and charging, God’s in the back handing out grace and love for free.
Grace for you. Grace for you. And grace for you.
You don’t have to do anything.
God’s joy is there, just waiting to be received.
It’s like this story that I once heard from Priest Greg Boyle, who works with gang members in Los Angelos and refers to them as homies, a term which implies kinship and care.
So one day Boyle is talking to a homie who was an orphan who was abandoned by his parents and worked on the graffiti crew. It was just following Christmas day and Boyle asks the homie: “What did you do on Christmas?”
“Oh you know I was right here,” the homie, replies, meaning his tiny little apartment, where he lives by himself.
“All by yourself?” Boyle asks.
“Oh no,” he quickly replies, saying, “I invited over six other guys from the graffiti crew who didn’t had no place to do. And they were all …” He names them. They are enemies with each other.
“What you do you?” Boyle asks.
He does, “You’re not gonna believe it. I cooked a turkey.”
Boyle inquires, “How did you prepare the turkey?”
The homie says, “Well, you know, ghetto style.”
Boyle replies, “I’m not familiar with the recipe.”
The homie explains, “Well, you rub it with a gang of butter and squeeze two limones on it and you put salt and pepper on it and put in the over. Tasted proper.”
“Wow,” Boyle says, “What else did you have besides turkey?”
“Well that’s it, just turkey. Yeah, the seven of us, we just sat in the kitchen staring at the overn waiting for the turkey to be done. Did I mention it tasted proper?”
“Yeah you did.” Boyle answers.
Right there in the midst of ordinary life, is the joy of God.
Found in turkey. Found in seven enemies, orphans, sitting at a kitchen table waiting to eat. Found in popsicles handed out for free. Found in the celebration of a lost coin, even if it is only one. Found in the dance of resurrection, no matter who is watching. Found in even the Pharisees getting up and learning how to dance.
“Rejoice with me.”
For God, who takes to the street like the woman who found her coin, loves the world so much that She invites us to soak in its beauty, to find poetry in the world, to revel in the freedom of knowing that we don’t have to know the moves, all we have to do is dance.