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3 Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.”
Jesus directed these stories to “tax collectors and sinners,” but also to the Pharisees and legal experts who grumbled about him mingling with “those people.” Probably echoing the image we read yesterday from Ezekiel 34, the first story was about a shepherd who lost one sheep from his flock. Unlike the leaders listening to Jesus, this shepherd was not at all indifferent to the loss. He dropped everything, searched until he found the lost sheep—and threw a big party to celebrate finding it.
O Jesus, thank you for seeking and finding me, for being “thrilled” as I move back into your family! Give me eyes to see others who long for you to find them and to draw them into your great heart of steadfast love. Amen.
Years ago, when my son Ryan was in middle school, he got lost. He will say he was absolutely not “lost”–he knew where he was the entire time. The problem was none of the rest of the family had that intel.
It was one of those weird situations that could only happen if circumstances came together just so. Ryan had summer football practice. Kate had drill team. Kate was going to pick Ryan up–times aligned perfectly. It was the best laid plan . . . until it wasn’t.
Kate’s activity ran long. We made Ryan leave his phone at home because there was no place to put it during practice. Doug and I were both unreachable, which almost never happens.
So when Kate realized she was going to be late, she called Ryan and left a message on his phone. . . which was at home. When Ryan’s practice ended, he assured everyone his sister was picking him up, so they all left. School was locked, no one around. He waited for a while, then decided Kate must have forgotten. (She wouldn’t, but…)
Since it was close enough to walk home, Ryan set off. That made sense, but our kids didn’t walk to school so we didn’t have a standard “walking route.” As soon as Ryan took off walking one direction, Kate came to pick him up from the other direction. When she got to the school, she couldn’t find her brother. Kate checked her phone to see if she had a message from Ryan–nope. She tried to call Ryan repeatedly, but he didn’t answer. She tried to call Doug and me, but we weren’t answering. She frantically called Ryan’s friends, all of whom had last seen him at the school waiting to be picked up.
By the time she got ahold of us, she was in a panic. And we went right there with her. Kate immediately went home to see if Ryan was there–he wasn’t yet. She saw his phone and realized that he couldn’t contact anyone, had been left alone at school, and no one could find him. As any good big sis would, she took off again to look, and as she went one way Ryan came home another. By the time Doug and I found out what was going on, it had been way too long for anyone’s comfort. Finally, as we were hurrying to get home, Kate called–her brother was found.
When I remember that day, so many years ago, it still makes me feel a little sick. He was only “lost” for about an hour, but it seemed like forever.
Then I think about this parable and how Jesus must feel about me. How often do I end up in the midst of an unusual set of circumstances and suddenly I am lost?
You see, we had a plan, but things just got a little off track. That could sum up the failures in my faith journey. Kate’s activity ran long–that was out of her control. My life is full of times when things didn’t go as planned and get out of control. Without his phone, Ryan couldn’t be reached. I can think of many times when I know God was trying to connect with me and couldn’t reach me. Many people could have stepped in to take Ryan home, but we didn’t ask them. How often could I have asked for help when I needed it, but was sure I had things under control?
When we were all “found” and together again, we each began to blame ourselves for the flaws in our plan. How easy it was, how easy it is, to get caught up in what we have done wrong and let that throw us into a downward spiral. Then we turned and started to find fault with each other about what someone else could have done to prevent or at least lessen this crisis. Again, an easy reaction when we walk away from our faith–it couldn’t be all my fault.
But the thing I remember most about that day is the overwhelming, unbelievable joy when Ryan was found. And that is how Jesus must feel every time one of us comes home after we have walked a different path for a while.
* Bruce Larson, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 26: Luke. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc. 1983, p. 235.