Last Easter Sunday, my family decided to take an early spring hike at Percy Warner Park. There was a beautiful sky and we were ready for an adventure. The trees were getting greener every minute and wildflowers brightened up the forest floor. Having the whole afternoon to spend, we chose a part of the park we hadn’t hiked in before and tried to follow the trail markers as best we could. After an hour or so, we realized that we hadn’t passed another hiker for quite a while. The hilly terrain and twisting path made it hard to gauge where exactly we were within the park. The kids sat on a log while my husband tried to get a signal with his phone to check the map. Of course, this was fruitless in the valley of a park area, so we decided to just keep going and see where we ended up.
Matt started up the trail, followed by my older son and I. After a few yards, my younger son called from behind, “Wow! Look at this!” We all turned, expecting to find a snake or toadstool or other treasure from nature. Instead, Isaac was standing behind us holding a coin. “I found it in the log we were sitting on. What is it?” What was it, indeed. We could tell even from the distance that it was silver but too big to be a quarter and not big enough to be a silver dollar. Eli grabbed it from his brother to inspect and fumbled through the long word on the coin’s face: Bund-es-re-pub-lik-deu-tsch-
We did eventually find our way back to the car that Easter afternoon and had a lot of fun coming up with scenarios of how that coin found it’s way to that unlikely spot. We tried to think of the mathematical probability that Isaac would sit in the right place on that log and stick his hand inside it (yuck) to find this out-of-circulation coin. It was just too crazy a thing, so we decided that it was just all meant to be and the coin now resides on our kitchen counter.
Over the months, I’ve thought a lot about this coin and about the work we do at Open Table Nashville. We find people in unlikely places – under bridges and beside rivers. Last summer, we found a man and his children hiding in a dumpster. These are people who often feel “out-of-circulation” – lost, forgotten, without hope. But, like finding a coin in a log, these meetings are meant to be. We believe in a God who cares for each of us as a special child, never forgotten, never alone. When we, as God’s people, are willing to take the twisty, hilly path, the one that we don’t know quite where it will lead, we rely fully on grace and faith to see us through.
Remember the parable Jesus told about the shepherd who loses one sheep? He takes the time to go back and find that one, even though he has others and leaves them at risk while he’s gone. It’s taken me years to grasp the depth of the promise that story holds – God’s love is powerful enough to find us where ever we are. God’s love for us transcends judgement about how we’ve lived our lives or where we’ve ended up. We are always worthy to be part of the flock, cared for and nurtured. At Open Table Nashville, we believe that everyone deserves the warmth of community and the dignity of housing. We go where we are led to find God’s children, our neighbors, our lost sheep, and bring them gently into the fold.
This Easter reflection was written by Volunteer Coordinator, Liz Shadbolt. Liz is a Deaconess in The United Methodist Church.