I have recently been doing some work on behalf of Transport for London and was amazed when I found out what has been left behind on the buses and trains. As well as the usual umbrellas, spectacles and mobile phones there are things you could not imagine people losing, such as a brown envelope containing £15,00 (yes, that was claimed), an urn of ashes (claimed after 7 years), a prosthetic leg and several musical instruments, including full drum kits!
Closer to home, at St Mary’s church in Wymeswold, personal items are often left on the pews. It’s usually a hat or a glove, occasionally an ear ring or other item of jewellery. Recently a watch was left behind, possibly after a funeral. So, if anyone knows someone who visited Wymeswold recently, and is missing a watch, please get in touch, we would love to reunite you with it.
Lost is a theme that Jesus used several times. Luke records three such parables in Chapter 15. There is the parable of the Lost Sheep (see also Matthew Ch 18), the parable of the Lost Coin, and the parable of the Prodigal Son, as it is popularly known, although the term ‘Prodigal Son’ did not appear until several hundred years later, so perhaps the Lost Son might be closer to the mark.
The parable of the lost sheep, according to Luke is about deliverance, ‘…there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent’. Matthew has a different view, seeming to have Jesus addressing the parable towards lost children, ‘… in the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost’.
Is there a common meaning to each of these parables, that would have meant something to the people who heard it two thousand years ago and to those who read it today? There seems to be two common themes, that of loss, when someone becomes aware that something is missing, and joy, when that person finds what they are looking for. The shepherd finds the lost sheep, the woman finds the lost coin and the father is reunited with his son. It is this joy which transcends all those irksome (and irrelevant) thoughts and questions that come to mind, such as; whose fault was it the sheep wandered off in the first place, who mislaid the coin, and who colluded with the son by handing over his inheritance?
How many of us are honest enough to admit that we have something missing in our lives? And how many of us, when we look at the church see it as being filled with people who are ‘holier than thou’, ‘self-righteous’ or similar. The truth is I cannot imagine ever finding, in a group of one hundred people, one sinner and ninety-nine righteous soles. If that was the case we would not need to confess our wrongdoings and seek forgiveness every week in church.
The first step is to become aware that something is missing in our life. The second step is to realise that what is missing cannot be found in earthly pleasures, although some of us may never reach this second step. The third step, when we find what we are looking for is to experience the joy that transcends all earthly pleasure, when the sheep is back in the fold, the coin is in a safe place and the son is back home. Everything is back in its rightful place, just as God intended.