Gospel Reflections for Sun September 15th

8 September 2013

The lost sheep and the lost coin


Luke 15:1-10


Ahhh … we arrive at Luke 15 … the great trilogy of LOST PARABLES  -Sheep, Coin, Son.

What a difference it makes turning one page! I made passing reference to the Lost Parables in last week’s reflections on that really difficult passage about HATING your family. (Apologies for not including the link to those reflections.  I’ve added it in here, because if you didn’t get the chance to look at it, I encourage you to have a quick browse, as it really is an important lead-up to this week’s reflections. See  

In Luke 15, Jesus paints for us a powerful image of a loving God. It is interesting that Jesus gives this to us in triplicate. The use of threes by the way, is a common technique. We are reminded of the three neighbour candidates in the Good Samaritan; the three-peat denial of Jesus by Peter; Jesus subsequently questioning Peter three times - do you love me?  Incidentally we seem to have adopted the use of three as part of good story or joke telling technique!

I won’t attempt to analyse the whole of this reading. Since traditionally we tend to focus more on the Lost Sheep section of this reading … I’d like to take up a slightly different thread … Why the three variations of Lost?

One commentary I read suggested that the sheep story has a blokey appeal, so the coin with a woman as the central character was a counter-balance more relevant to the females. Another "alternative" theory that I've read is that the woman in the coin story represents the Holy Spirit as the other two stories clearly contain Father and Son figures.


All of those perspectives aside, let’s just focus on just one small aspect, centred around what is probably the least known of the three stories, the lost coin. What's the point of the Lost Coin parable anyway? What has it got to offer that is not simply a rerun of the other two members of the trilogy? The coin that had gone missing was of quite high value, being approximately equal to a day's wages. There is speculation that the coin lost may have been one of the woman's dowry coins (part of the head-dress of a single woman), but in any case that is largely irrelevant to the thread of thinking that I want to explore. In digging around for some insights, I discovered something fascinating, to make me realize that there is a vital role for the COIN story. 

Consider this. In the lead-up to Luke 15, Jesus is intent on declaring to the people that there is a new and better way about to be unfolded that will free everyone for all time from the impossible demands of the law. In typical Jesus master-story-teller fashion, each of the lost stories contains something of an outrageous element, partly for impact, but very much also to highlight the crazy nature of God's radical plan, that everyone is potentially set free.

The lost parables all highlight the fact that in order to be accepted by the Father figure, not a solitary action on the part of whatever/whoever is lost is required.  The lost son, even though he has something of an apology planned in his mind, does not get a chance to deliver it before the Father unconditionally receives him. Despite sheep being perhaps unfairly labelled as dumb, they are arguably capable of responding to action. Ask any farm boy who has opened the gate to let sheep into a fresh new paddock, or poured out a trail of grain for them. They are unable to contain their excitement. It would however be stretching it to think that the sheep might be capable of expressing some sort of "sorry I got lost" repentance. So the lost sheep here in this story does nothing to enable it to be found.

As if to make sure, enter the coin! Perhaps Jesus uses the coin, which is totally incapable of any response, to drive home the fact that there is absolutely nothing portrayed as necessary to receive the gracious gift of new life in Christ!


In summary: each of the stories has a salvation punch-line. Each sees the reward as a free gift – totally undeserved and made available absolutely without any contributing work to earn the reward. This is surely classic Martin Luther … Saved by Grace.


We have a responsibility in our Lutheran schools to make sure that the simplicity of this amazing message is not lost. We must avoid making it too complicated, or making it sound like there are conditions attached.


Note also the reassuring message that GOD SEEKS US OUT … or at the very least, is on the lookout for us.


The Lost Parables surely also call us as Lutheran Schools to welcome the lost and even intentionally seek out those who may be lost.


(What does this passage say to us about our enrolment policies?)