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The Lost Sapphire

September 5, 2016

I was stopped at a red light on my way home from work about a year and a half ago, when I absentmindedly glanced down at my hand on the steering wheel. I was shocked at what I saw: a gaping hole in the heirloom ring that my late mother-in-law gave me about twenty years ago. The large blue sapphire that was the centerpiece of the ring was missing–I couldn’t believe it! How could it have fallen out? Then I noticed that two of the four prongs were broken, and reality sunk in. It was gone. It had been a busy day. I skipped my workout that morning, and arrived in the office early to prepare for court. I argued a case in court and took a lunchtime walk down Grand Avenue, one of the busiest streets in downtown Los Angeles. Later, I met with colleagues around the office. I park in a large underground parking lot; it could have fallen out there. The stone could be anywhere. I realized almost immediately that I would never find a tiny stone in the huge area that I had covered throughout the day. Even so, I searched the car when I got home, and looked all over the house. No stone. I re-traced my steps the next day. I kept my eyes peeled in the parking garage. I alerted my colleagues in the office and the Sheriff’s deputies at the security desk in the building to notify me if it was found. I searched the courtroom where I had appeared the day before, and asked the clerk to call me if someone found it and turned it in. Still no stone.

The Scripture texts this week[1] describe our lostness in the context of Jesus as our shepherd, who will always search us out and find us when we stray: “I have strayed like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176); “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep . . . declares the Lord. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured . . .” (Ezekiel 34: 15-16). In the epistle lesson Paul describes his lostness: “[F]ormerly I was a blasphemer persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.” (1 Timothy 1:13). We spend hours searching for our lost things—some of which are never found. But God will find us, if we want to be found. He will never give up on us.

The loss of a treasured family heirloom does not begin to compare with the 2, 996 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and friends who were killed 15 years ago on September 11, 2001. Life gives us many opportunities for despair– the loss of a loved one to death, drugs or illness; the loss of a job, the loss of health, setbacks at work, the loss of retirement funds in a fluctuating stock market, the loss of love, the loss of friendship, the loss of a home and other treasured things—to name a few types of losses leading to despair. But in a world filled with anguish we need to remember that we are an Easter people—a people with hope in the future.

I like to think that it was a flash of light from the silver coin that drew the woman’s attention to the lost coin in the parable Jesus told in the gospel lesson for Sunday. (Luke 15: 8-9). We are drawn to the light—and to shiny, sparkly things that reflect light. And isn’t that what Jesus asks us to do–to reflect his light? Even the light from one person standing up in faith can light up a dark room.  A smile, a few spoken or written words of encouragement to a friend or co-worker can go a long way to lift a person up and let a little sunshine into his or her life.

Almost five months after I lost the sapphire, I got up at 4:15 a.m. as usual on a week-day, pulled on my gym clothes, stumbled down the stairs half-asleep, and dumped the tote bag I use to carry things around the house onto the kitchen table. I poured myself a cup of coffee that had just finished brewing, and sat down on my chair at the kitchen table. As I began to wake up, a sparkle caught my eye on the inside of the partially open tote. It was a little stone, which turned out to be the lost sapphire! It had been buried in the dark recesses of my tote bag for months. It must have fallen out of the ring into the bag when I brought it downstairs after I got dressed the day I lost it. It reminded me of the words from Amazing Grace: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” We were all lost and in darkness, but Jesus found us and brought us into the light of hope and certainty.

Jesus calls us to sparkle—to stand up and shine-to be a light in a dark world. We are not to keep the Christ light to ourselves, but to let it shine so that others may see it and be encouraged.

I didn’t see the sparkling sapphire when it was hidden in the tote bag. I only saw it when the bag was opened, and it spilled out onto the lining, catching my eye. We too will catch the eyes of those around us who are lost in despair and darkness, when we open our hearts and lives to them. Just as Jesus sought us out and found us, lifting us out of darkness, so we can be a light to lead others out of the dark places in their lives.

May we sparkle and shine to draw others closer to him.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost are Psalm 119: 169-176; Ezekiel 34:11-24; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15: 1-10.

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