19 May 2016
I had an awful Monday morning. I went to get my iPad from its place on my desk in the Study at the Church, and it wasn't there. No problem, I thought, it's at home in the charging stand; maybe I left it there overnight, so I wouldn't have to carry around the cord for power all day long. Nope. Empty. Oh, I know! It's in the pocket of the car door, where I often put it, so that it is "out of sight" when I'm out of the car. But then, I looked there - no iPad. Not under the seat either, or on the back seat or in the pile of "odds and ends" under the shelf in the back. Nowhere in the car! Not in Phyllis' car either - I looked. I scanned the den, looked on the table next to my recliner, then under the pillows on the couch, even in front of the TV. Nothing. Well, maybe I hadn't looked very carefully in my study; it was bound to be there, somewhere. I looked in my desk drawers, behind books on the shelves, in the closet over the hangers, near the coffee pot, by the printer.... everywhere! Several times! Nothing. Nada. Can you sense that my anxiety was beginning to rise?!? I have about 4 dozen e-books on my iPad, hundreds of e-mails, scores of written documents, thousands of photos, a great many games, a few passwords and irreplaceable items buried in its electrons, and IT WAS MISSING! Aaarrrggghhhh!
Calm down, I encouraged myself; pray about it. Ask the Almighty for some peace of heart and mind about the recovery of this important tool. Oh! I know! Look in the sanctuary! It's there, to be sure, since I used it to take photos of the Confirmation Class after worship on Sunday morning! I went in, looking in all the places I'd been while leading worship..... no iPad. I checked in the darker corners of the narthex. No. I looked in the first and last pews, where I'd been talking with folks after worship, to no avail. Maybe Shelly, our church's cleaning lady, had found it, and put it in my Office Message Box, so I looked there. Next! I checked the 2 closets where her cleaning supplies are kept, in hopes that she'd put it there for safekeeping. Nothing. I looked on the shelf just outside the narthex, above the wheelchairs. Empty.
And then, in a flash of brilliant desperation, I launched into a classic exercise in insanity: "Repeat an action, expecting a different result!" I went back to the car and looked "really carefully" under the seats, in the door pocket, in the "trunk" - and in Phyllis' car, too.... and it still wasn't there! Back to the Study; back to the den; back to the charging stand; back to any and every where I could remember being since I took it into the sanctuary on Sunday morning. No iPad! Nuts! So I called the restaurant I'd gone to after Church, and they had not seen it; the store next door, too.... but nothing, though they promised to be "on the lookout" for it, and took my name and phone number, "Just in case!"
Before I knew it, a fresh cycle of grief had begun. You know how that goes, I suspect: Denial. Fear. Anger. Hopelessness. Accommodation. Peace. I persuaded myself that my iPad wasn't really gone, it was just "misplaced." No one had stolen it, hidden it, thrown it away. It was just where I'd left it, where-ever that was! My heart rate was up; my anxiety level began climbing; the fears of losing all the "good stuff" on my electronic, auxiliary brain went through the roof! Pictures gone, music absent, all those Goldie and Grumpy Cat and Church and Christmas and Family and vacation photos (and the Selfies!) were lost.... wow! I tried, at several turns, to pray about it, asking the Father for calm and insight and peace in the search.... again, not very successful, as I was still trying to be "in control" of the matter, and wasn't "quite ready" to relinquish the reins into more capable hands. Maybe someone had taken it - from the Sanctuary (Churches are rife with iPad thieves, I've heard!), or the Store (they wouldn't tell me even if they had it!), or from my car (I'd heard stories about people who knew how to unlock electronic doors, take things, and close them back as if nothing had happened!). Maybe they really admired my faux-wooden iPad cover, or knew that I had passwords and access codes and great games on it! And my anger began to bubble up quickly at all those "imagined" perpetrators of malicious action! Where was it?!?!
Have you ever been in that kind of moment? Or, perhaps I should ask, "When was the last time you lost something important and ran through the entire gambit of emotions associated with loss?" I"m sure that you recall that Jesus told three stories in quick succession (in Luke's recollection) about loss. One was a woman who had lost the equivalent of the stone in her engagement ring; actually it was a coin, perhaps from the string that had been across her forehead at her wedding. It was part of her dowery from her father to her husband, along with her "hand" in marriage. She was in such a panic that she "turned the house upside down" looking for just one coin, picking up the rugs, moving the furniture, taking out all the trash, relocating the supplies, rearranging the storage cabinets, desperate.... until she found it!
In the second vignette, there was a shepherd who owned 100 sheep - no small herd! And one of them turned up missing; he probably noticed it as he was gathering them into the safety of the fold for the night. They'd had "free range" during the daylight hours, and one had followed its nose to one more green patch, one more sip of water, one more sunny - and then shady - patch, and before long, it was separated from the 99 others of its "clan." Now, I don't know if it was trying to find its way home, but Jesus proffers that it took the shepherd risking "life and limb" to find it, gather it up in his arms and on his shoulders, and brought it home.
Then there was the other story, the one about the Prodigal Father. You remember him, the one with two sons, both of whom were missing, though the elder didn't go so far from home. And the Father's heart went out to both of them, and he found each, in turn, and did all that he could to welcome them back home again. With the younger, it went pretty well - but with the older, we don't really know, because the curtain falls with the Father's final entreaty for him to "Come home...."
In all three stories, either by accident or willful determination, that which was lost was so valuable that the owner went to considerable lengths to recover it. And each time, the joy of recovery bubbled up, surpassing the grief of loss, and it flowed onto the "loser" and beyond.... to all their friends! The woman who found her coin invited all the neighbors to share in her joy - and why not? The house was very clean! The shepherd invited his friends to be a part of the reclaimed lamb's "homecoming!" (I can only imagine the tongue-lashing the lamb got from its mother when the shepherd wasn't around!) And do you remember the Father's joy? "This son of mine who was lost is found; he who was dead is alive!" The separation was forgotten; the anxiety was calmed; the empty space was rightfully filled again. Peace and shalom were restored.
I hope that on Sundays, you come to share in that joy with others in the community of faith. It is, after all, God's joy - that all that has been "lost" (even for a little while) is being recovered, and that which was separated is being reunited and reconciled to Him. You see, that's the work of the Kingdom in our world. It is the re-establishment of the intended created order. Every time we step in that direction, or find that we are being gathered up from His direction, God's pleasure in the "discovery" is immense. I hope to see you on Sunday, so that we might celebrate it together with Him!
Grace and peace.
Jim Earley, Pastor
PS ~ OBTW, I composed this Thought on my iPad; it was between the cushion and arm of the recliner in the den. I found it Monday afternoon - and am still grinning!
Grace and peace.
Jim Earley, Pastor
Got comments? Contact Pastor Jim at email@example.com