Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Losing Sheep

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:3-7

I am notoriously good at losing things - keys, paper work, important items like wallets and glasses -all these things can vanish from my sight. Usually when I find them, I am very late, very upset with myself and in no mood for a celebration. Sheep are a different matter, and although I have no sheep, I have friends and family, acquaintances and relationships that I hold dear and would be crushed if they were lost to me. I lose sleep when these relations have gone sour or are strained and I know how happy I am when things are mended and renewed. I may not be a shepherd of sheep, but as a pastor, and a bishop with a crosier, I know how heart-wrenching it is to lose even one and how grateful to God I am when they are returned, safe and the relationship is whole again.

Jesus tells his disciples about perfection, about following rules and they very rarely understand so he tells them stories. And they can understand because they know what it is like to lose a sheep, to lose sleep in worry, to search and search for a lost child. Jesus tells them that God is like that, every searching for any of us who get lost until we are found, never giving up on us and rejoicing in our return. The God they grew up with had rules only and expectations of perfection. Hoe different this was to have Jesus tell them about God's delight in a returned lost sheep. We each have been a lost sheep at some time, wandering, crying out and trying to figure how we got in such a mess.

Today I want to give thanks for God's persistence in my wandering. I am so grateful that God is not judging us and dismissing us but seeking us out day after day. May we all remember God's great love for us and do all we can for the lost sheep in our lives.

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