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14th Sunday after Pentecost - September 11, 2022

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Good morning. I am absolutely delighted and very grateful to be here this morning.

So: by profession and vocation, I’m a teacher. Over the years, I’ve taught everybody from 4 year olds to 70 year olds and this August, I started my 17th year at WT as an English professor.

That means I spend my work days with 18-30 year olds, undergraduates and graduate students, trying to help them, yes, understand the complexities of studying English literature and language, but also, maybe more importantly, trying to help them navigate the many decisions they face. My students are in a “launch phase” of life: they are trying to get their adult lives going in so many ways: academically, professionally, romantically, socially. So many moving parts, so much pressure. They want and they need guidance. And yes, sometimes they go to their assigned grownup people, and sometimes to their professors and other advisors, and sometimes they take advantage of resources that many of us did not have at that age: I’m thinking particularly here of the internet and social media.

And I know—it’s easy to give a little sideye to the interwebs as a reliable source of information. But before we start tsk-tsking too much:

Let’s think about that time we had that weird pain in our elbow, and we went not to our primary care physician, but to WebMD? To Google “weird pain in elbow <ENTER>”

Uh-huh. I think lots of us live in glass houses on this subject so, we won’t be throwing any stones today.

So yes, my students go to the internet seeking counsel, and often, they will tell me what they find. And I go look at what they have found, because I want to see what they see, as much as I can.

One particularly powerful trend on social media right now is one that extols the virtues of the so-called “high value man” and “high value woman,” these individuals we should all not only be looking to attract, but also we should look to become. Much discussion of what the “high value person” will and will not accept, what this so-called “high value person” brings to the table.

I find this trend deeply distressing, for I don’t know that I can express adequately just how repellent I find this language of the “high value person.”

For you see, the paradigm of the “high value person” holds up only if we accept that on the other side of the spectrum from the “high value person,” we have the “low value person.”

A paradigm that I reject. This idea that some people have more “value” than others has caused more suffering over the course of human history than just about anything else. For this idea, that some people are “worth” more than others, and that human beings are qualified to judge human worth, is an idea that people across centuries and across cultures have found it very difficult to resist.

Evidence? Chapter 15 of Luke, which begins with a heaping helping of humans judging humans. The scribes and Pharisees sniff and “grumble” the NRSV translates it over the fact that Jesus welcomes and

eats with “tax collectors and sinners,” those whom the scribes and Pharisees have judged as less worthy than others, those who are worth(less).

And Jesus’s response? The parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.

Structurally, these two parables are identical. They follow exactly the same pattern.

In the first, a sheep has gone missing, and Jesus asks, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.”

A sheep is lost, so it is sought. When it is found, there is rejoicing.

Same with the parable of the lost coin: