Sunday, October 9 – “Lost and Found”
View this recorded version of Sunday Worship from October 9, 2022.
Psalm 23, Galatians 3:28, Luke 15: 4-7 (The Lost Sheep)
Reflection: Lost and Found
Excerpts from the reflection by Rev. Dr. Susan Alloway:
“The passage from Luke this morning tells about a shepherd, who, when tending a flock of a 100 sheep, discovers that one is missing, and the shepherd leaves the 99 to go searching for the one that is missing.
The pasture land in Judea, the area of Israel in which this story takes place, is a very challenging piece of land for shepherd to work.
It’s up high plateau only about 2 miles wide, and it’s surrounded on all sides by very steep cliffs, and there are no natural barriers at the edge of the pasture so that a sheep who’s he’s fully grazing and wandering around can easily miss step and fall over the edge.
And it happened, and shepherds became very astute at tracking their sheep and finding them because there was a practice that if you lost a sheep–this is a communal herd–but if you lost one of the sheep, you were obliged to either go find it before you came back, or bring back its fleece.
If it had fallen off the cliff, and died, or been carried off by a wild animal, You had to account for that sheep.
When I say it was a communal flock, the flocks were kept in the town at night, and then taken out during the day by 2 or 3 shepherds, which is how one shepherd could go after the one that was lost because there were 2 others or one other who were attending the ones that were remaining, and because it was a communal flock, at the close of day, when the shepherd’s brought back the 99, if the other sheep still hadn’t been found the shepherds who came back into town said, ‘Okay. We lost a sheep.’, and the whole village waited until it was found or accounted for.
And when the shepherd came back weary and triumphant, with the sheep over his shoulders, the whole town rejoiced. This is told as a parable about God and sinners.
We’re gonna shift gears now. We’re going to go from Judea to New Mexico in the late 1800’s, 1878 to be exact.
The first Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad car pulled into Santa Fe on the transcontinental railroad line, and brought with it scores of wealthy tourists from the East who could not wait to buy up, all of the beautiful Indian-made artifacts.
And after a while, after several trips, the tourists started saying to the potters, ‘You know this is a beautiful pot, but if you would sign it on the bottom, it would be worth more money.’
Now the pots were owned by the community and every pot had a purpose for hundreds of years. There were pots to hold corn meal, to hold kernels of corn, to hold the sacred corn pollen, to hold oil, to hold massa–all different purposes for the pots, and they belong to the community.
Further, each pot was decorated with specific symbols that represented connections to nature and prayers, so that if you had a pot that had the symbols for rain on it and you had a pot that had the symbol for seeds, you were making a prayer for a bountiful harvest.
But then the people from the northeast came and said we’ll pay you more money if you sign these pots. And oh, by the way, we kind of like the eagle feather design more than we like the little pods of seeds, so could you make more pots that had more eagle feathers on them?
So it went from being something communal to something very individual, which is something we in this country know a lot about, because our founding theology is that of individualism.
In this country, starting from the time we are little kids in kindergarten, we are taught that it’s the individual that matters.
With little kids the teacher says, ‘How do you spell cat? Who knows that?’, and everybody’s arm shoots up or some arms shoot up. And you soon learn that if you can get your arm up fastest, if you can smile the biggest, the teacher will call on you and then you get a gold star.
From the very beginning we’re taught that’s how we succeed and that’s how we control our universe.
And there comes with individualism, separation; and there comes with separation, isolation, division; a sense, not of wholeness, but of fragmentation.
And sometimes that comes into our lives by something that we ourselves do or others around us do. So sometimes it comes into our lives because of some great cultural reality like you get a gold star if you get your hand up higher or someone makes a railroad that goes all the way across the country, which then means you’re gonna get more money for your pots.
So the reason isolation is so insidious is we often don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s happening until we notice, like the sheep, that all of a sudden we’re cold and we’re alone.
If we’re blessed with that awareness, then we receive the invitation to do something about it and we are not alone.
We have the greatest shepherd. We have a God, a Jesus, a Holy Spirit, a divine presence that accompanies us through our days, and that we can call on when we are feeling like we just can’t keep the drawbridge down anymore; and we have each other.
This church is a wonderful source of opportunities to be with each other outside of Sunday morning. We have more and more opportunities to do things together, and so, when we are feeling separate, when we most want to draw up the draw bridge, we can say to ourselves, ‘No, I’m going to seek my community’–because that is who we are created to be.”