We were so blessed at Mission Conference by the ordination of Linda Klughart to the office of Seventy and by the way this event inspired Apostle Art Smith’s Sunday message. It has been ringing in my heart ever since, and we wanted to bring you this excerpt to feed your soul, so that you can return to it again and again. This is what matters most for us right now.
Mission Centre President Team
Jesus tells them stories.
The stories are absurd sounding.
What woman having lost one of her ten coins wouldn’t light a lamp and search for it all night long? Well, no woman would do this. In the story, she would have spent more on oil burning in her lamp than the lost coin was even worth. And then, when the coin is found, she calls a celebration. By the time she had purchased a cake from Costco, she’d have spent way more than that little coin was ever worth.
And no self-respecting shepherd would ever abandon the 99 sheep, risking everything, to find one that had wandered off.
But the story continues similarly. The sheep is recovered and there’s a celebration.
What would the party look like? Roasted sheep! I imagine.
But the stories are told to help the grumblers understand that from God’s perspective, when anyone is missing, or excluded, whether it’s just one in a hundred, or one in ten, or one half, it’s profoundly wrong in Heaven.
So when we talk about growing together, growing in knowledge of God’s will and ways, we need to be careful.
We’re a little religious community in decline.
We might be tempted to circle the wagons and to focus in on each other.
After all, maybe if we can strengthen ourselves, get better at what we do, then others might want to join us.
After all, surely one of our greatest strengths is the way we love one another, the way we can count on each other to always make other members of our community feel at home.
But what I take from this 15th chapter, at the heart of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel according to Luke (which is by the way the kind of content so much at the heart of the gospel that I know people who have Luke 15 tattooed on their forearm), what I take from this chapter is that growing together for us means growing in our capacity to notice the ones who are missing.
As we grow, we become keenly aware of those who are not here.
Later in chapter 15 it’s one of the two sons who's gone off with half of the inheritance.
It was obvious he had gone.
With the woman, it was one tenth of what she had that went missing.
With the shepherd, it was one out of a hundred.
We grow in our awareness and sensitivity towards the lost. We prioritize them, not us, and we celebrate when we get to be together again.
The paradox is that our growing together isn’t really focused on those who are here.
We grow together in our ability to notice those who are missing and in our ability to focus on them without religious or righteous grumbling.
Linda will be ordained today as a minister for noticing who’s missing.
The scriptures talk about the dangers that the seventy will face because of the places they will go. But today I’m thinking about the risks that will be generated back at home as the seventy do their work. They risk provoking grumbling among the religiously faithful.
The seventy, like the angels in heaven, recognize how profoundly wrong it is that people are being left out, forgotten, ignored or excluded.
They are passionate for the lost.
But it’s risky work. All around the church, in our little communities, getting smaller all the time, we can ill afford, it would seem, to have some of our best ministers off focusing elsewhere.
Focusing on those who aren’t even religious.
Running after immigrants, visiting prisons, working with special needs people, paying attention to the LGBTQ community.
They aren’t the ones paying the bills.
We’re not too sure we really want our little community to be dominated by those people anyway.
It is risky work to which you are called Linda. If you’re doing it right, there may be grumbling.
But today, it seems a little bit clear.
And my dream is that we’ll grow together, not necessarily to become more religious, more spiritually pure, but to be more sensitive to the ones who’re not here, those we’ve lost along the way, and maybe we can also grow to be a little less grumbly.
Yours in Christ,
Gwyn, Kat, and Shannon
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