Have you heard God called “The Good Shepherd?” Have you heard God portrayed as the father who runs out to meet the prodigal son? These are two parables that Jesus told the religious leaders who were annoying him because they did not get that God was all about loving the world and not condemning it. They are brilliant parables – the very heart of Jesus’s message where God pulls out all of the stops to love us. But sandwiched in between these two parables is the parable of the lost coin:
What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” (Luke 15:8-9 NRS).
Do you notice anything really really really weird about this parable? In it, Jesus describes God as a married woman who has lost the equivalent of her wedding ring. The ten coins were most certainly the coins she received at her wedding and wore around her head on a chain – our equivalent of a wedding ring. One of the coins must have fallen off. We tell this story over and over. And yet, no one ever points out that Jesus was not ashamed to compare God to a woman! What does it say about us that we are okay with God being “The Good Shepherd who lost his Sheep” or “The Father of the Prodigal Son”? But which of us doesn’t flinch when we hear that God is “The Woman who Lost her Wedding Ring?”
In a moment where Jesus is revealing God to us, he describes God as a woman who is willing to go into the dark, dirty places and search until she finds the thing that represents the covenant love she has for her husband. Is that not beautiful? God as female. God in love. God who values us and searches to be reunited with us until she finds us?
This is the gospel. God lost us – and we are so precious to her that she is willing to go into the dark, dirty places to search for us. And she does not stop until she is united with us again.