A lectionary Blog
The Rev. Leslie M. St. Louis
Many of you know that my practice is to come home after church on Sunday, and after a bit of a rest, read the lections for the following week. Last Sunday I altered that practice just a bit. I came home and had some lunch and then read the lections before heading to the pool. I wanted to get the last two days of summer sunshine at the pool in. As I sat at the pool, I watched a young pair of Ospreys—I presumed it was the pair that nest not far from my house—swoop out over the water hunting and then make a big circle over land before coming back again and again in wider and wider arcs. Their shrill cries one to the other could be heard even over the laughter of the children on this end of summer afternoon.
On Monday morning, as I walked Jaedah, I watched the male again making swoops and circles over the water. This time he was alone, and although his call broke the morning stillness, there was no response. As we walked, I followed his ever widening and ever climbing circles headed slowly south until his broad dark wingspan became but a speck in the sky, soon swallowed away by the brilliant blue of late summer. I remember looking up in the sky as I took my lectionary book out to read the lections once again later that morning, but there was only blue, no dark speck anywhere around.
It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, as Jaedah and I walked, that I really realized that they were gone. What I had witnessed on Sunday and Monday was the last of the Osprey that had been with us this summer make their final ascent into streams of air that would carry them thousands of miles to the south. Their cries no longer filled the summer air and somehow the droning of the last of this year’s cicadas only made it seem that much more empty. The absence of their presence was palpable and all around me, and it spoke of the end of summer, the loss of what we all, I think consider, precious time.
I don’t know about you but I always feel at somewhat of a loss at the end of summer, as if a good friend has moved away, and even though I know they will be back I am sad to not see them now and I miss them. When I lived in Rochester I felt the same way about the end of fire season—when the last bit of snow in the shadiest part of the yard has finally melted and you can open the windows day and night and you just know there will be no more fires in the fireplace this year. There is a longing for that which is lost and a hoping that you will find it again.
That sense is what we encounter in the gospel text for this week, as Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Both the shepherd and the woman do everything in their power to bring back that which has been lost. I am sure we all have had that feeling of losing something like a coin that the woman has lost, frantically searching absolutely everywhere to find it and return it to its rightful place. I think that part of the appeal of Facebook and the websites that allow one to find long lost and sometimes unknown relatives is that we get to search for and find that lost sheep in our lives and hopefully have a joyous celebration at the return.
It’s a disquieting feeling to have lost someone or something. I remember in the days and weeks immediately after my father died having the sense that I had just misplaced him, lost him somewhere. I just knew that if I retraced my steps enough times I would find him right where I had left him, much like one finds their wallet that has been misplaced or the keys that are right where we always leave them.
Why do we keep searching? Because deep down we know that nothing can replace that piece that we are missing and that until that someone is returned nothing will assuage that ache we have just to see them. Just them.
I have wondered this week if this is what it is like for God. Always surveying the landscape looking for us, wondering in which of life’s thickets we have been caught. And I have wondered as well if we ever scan the skyline looking for just that speck that might be God coming toward us.