I noticed a penny lying in our driveway several weeks ago. I’ve probably walked by it a hundred times since then. On four or five different occasions, the penny caught my eye, but I never picked it up. I remember that one of those times I considered reaching down for it, but I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I thought about how little a penny could buy in 2016, and concluded that I’d have to use more than a penny’s worth of energy to bend over and lift it from the ground. I actually tried to calculate that, as I would a physics problem.
Today, I found myself kneeling down and picking up that penny. As I did, I became conscious that I was saying, under my breath, “Poor Orphan Penny.”
What was the difference? Why was the penny suddenly more worthwhile to me?
I suspect it had something to do with how I was looking at the day before me. I was about to get into my car for my morning commute up the hill to my office at the church. Same route, same roads for forty-four years. I knew that a pile of papers would confront me when I sat at my desk. Each one represented a project that would take some time, thought and effort. But who would notice? Did it really matter at all?
So, I picked up the Poor Orphan Penny, which I previously considered not worth the effort, because I was feeling like a Poor Orphan Penny. I wanted somebody to pick me up.
As I thought about this, a comedy routine from early TV jumped into my mind*, and I heard Eddie Lawrence, “The Old Philosopher,” say, “Is that what’s botherin’ ya, Bunky?” In his routine Lawrence would start in a whiny voice by listing a series of sad complaints we can all identify with:
Ya say ya lost your job today?
Ya say its 4 AM and your kids ain’t home from school yet?
Ya say your wife went out for a corned beef sandwich last weekend – the corned beef sandwich came back, but she didn’t?
Ya say your furniture is out all over the sidewalk ’cause ya can’t pay the rent, and your feets all swollen up and blistered from pounding the pavement looking for work?
Is that what’s botherin’ ya, Bunky?
Suddenly, Lawrence’s voice and demeanor change radically, and he sounds like a carnival pitchman as he launches into these words of encouragement and assurance, to the rousing music of a triumphant marching band:
Well, lift your head up high and take a walk in the sun with dignity and stick-to-it-iveness, and you’ll show the world, you’ll show them where to get off.
You’ll never give up, never give up, never give up! *
What’s bothering you today, Bunky? You feeling defeated? Overwhelmed? Lost, like a Poor Orphan Penny? Jesus told three parables about lost things, which are recorded in Luke 15. We’re pretty familiar with the Lost Sheep story, of how the Good Shepherd leaves the flock of ninety-nine to go searching for the one wandering stray. We also like to retell the Lost Son story, which we more often refer to as the parable of the Prodigal Son. But between these two is a less-known brief account of a Lost Coin. The whole point of this tale is that the woman who has misplaced the coin will not rest until she finds it. In fact, in all three of these parables about lost things Jesus seems to be telling us that the sheep, the son and the coin are not really lost because there is someone dedicated to finding them.
And there is Someone dedicated to finding you, Bunky! Jesus looked up in a tree and saw a rather small man named Zacchaeus who had climbed up there to get a better view. He told him how he could have a new start in life, with meaning and purpose. He said, in fact, that the very reason he came into this world was “to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). This same Savior who spotted Zacchaeus in the tree now has his eye on you, Bunky.
— Pastor George Van Alstine