Last week had a really nice parable that Jesus told his disciples. It was a wonderful reminder about the relentless love of God, that there is no road we can go down that God won’t go down to find us, that it doesn’t matter how lost we are, God will always find us. And those parables reminded us that we, too, are called to imitate the way that God loves relentlessly, looking for those who are lost, understanding how they left, and loving them back to the kingdom.
And then there’s this parable.
I can sympathize with the characters in these parables Jesus tells us today. Losing things is something I have a knack for doing. Usually it’s pretty trivial stuff, though. I lost my earbuds for my phone some time ago—not sure where they went. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of losing a pair of scissors or nail clippers, and the only way to find them is to buy a new pair. I’ve managed to misplace more pairs of sunglasses than I’d care to count. But there was one time when I lost something really, really important: my car keys.
It was last month when Annie and I were in Milwaukee for the Churchwide Assembly. We drove, but we had no plans (or time, really) to drive anywhere during the week. So, knowing how prone I am to losing things, I put the keys on the nightstand and swore to leave them there so we’d know where they were when we got ready to go at the end of the week. Only, when I was packing up the last day, the keys were nowhere to be found.
There is a road, a pretty famous road at least regionally, going through the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina, called “the road to nowhere.” It was meant to replace NC Highway 288 that was flooded when the Fontana Lake Dam was built, but shortly after it got started it hit a few snags. First, WWII was going on. Then, the rock under a significant part of the route was found to be unstable and rerouting it would lead to all kinds of cost overruns. Then, to top it all off, funds were never appropriated to finish it.
So now there’s a road that goes a few miles before abruptly ending in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Someone probably should’ve looked at what Jesus said about counting the costs before they got to work on that road to nowhere.
I might be in a weird age gap here, but does anyone remember MySpace? Before Facebook, MySpace was the social media for middle and high schoolers. But among its many features, one enduring thing that it had was your friends list. And the friends list was important, very important, to the teens who used it, because your friends were ranked, and you could change that ranking any time you wanted.
Let me tell you there was a lot of drama around the MySpace friend ranking. Inexplicably being bumped down someone’s list could easily lead to anxiety about what went wrong in your friendship. Being bumped up was a source of joy and pride. It’s a little weird how much hung on something as simple as a list on a website. It was a lot like the seating arrangement Jesus spoke about in the gospel today.