I jog often on the leaf-covered sidewalks here in town. At this point in the fall, they are beginning to pile up more and more. And it is not like they are only land on the sidewalk. Lawns are covered with fallen leaves also, displaying a vast ocean of brown-ness. The sidewalks and the lawns have begun to merge, the boundaries lost in the inundation of fallen leaves. But every once and a while, I will see a lawn and sidewalk free of all leaves, raked and bagged, clear for at least another day (or hour). Sometimes I get lucky and see the people rake up their lawns, clearing the leaves in order that the green grass may shine through again. But there’s is something peculiar about these lawn-rakers . . . they don’t stop until every last one of the leaves is raked up. They may look finished to a bystander or passerby-er like myself, but they know they are not done. They survey the lawn one last time to see if the autumn breeze has shaken down any more leaves. And if so, they hunt them down, much like a lion and its prey. They guess the path the leaf will take when the next gust of wind crosses the lawn. And believe me, these lawn-rakers can be relentless. They will stop at nothing to get each and every leaf into the bag and hauled away to the landfill.
The witnessing of this event or one similar has become almost an everyday occurrence for me (leaves have a way of finding grass that has been raked already). After a few times of seeing this, I found myself being transported into one of the greatest trilogies of all time – the one we find in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Luke. Luke writes three parables from the mouth of Jesus: (1) the parable of the lost sheep, (2) the parable of the lost coin, (3) and the prodigal son. Each of these is concerned with that which is lost, much like the leaf that is left in the lawn while the others are resting safely in the garbage can. This idea of lost and then found bonds these three parables together. Two telling lines from this chapter:
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous person who need no repentance.” – v. 7
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – v. 10
In the same way, I have witnessed the great joy on the faces of the lawn-rakers as they finally grasp the last, elusive leaf. This imagery of searching until all are found and the joy of that last one are to be found not only in the parables of Jesus, but also in the autumn days of a small, rural, college town.