Scripture Reading—Luke 15:1-7
(I'm sorry to have missed the last few days. I hope you will continue to look for these daily readings).
Luke’s gospel is my favorite. He is eager to show us the way Jesus breaks through the social barriers and religious customs of his day that separate people. In this well-known passage about the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness to go and look for the one that has wandered away, Jesus is responding to the persistent charges of his critics, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” We preachers like to make this into a missional text, urging our congregations to be like the shepherd in this story and go out and find the lost sheep. This text certainly suggests that. But in approaching it that way, we’re tacitly assuming that we’re always among the ninety-nine, or that we’re always as well-intentioned, self-sacrificial, and willing to take big risks as the shepherd in the story. And that’s often true as well. We do often make great sacrifices and take big risks to go out and bring the lost back into the safety and security of the fold. But, sometimes, we can’t really identify with the sheep who are safe anymore than we can identify with the shepherd intent on being faithful to his mission. Sometimes, we’re the ones who wander off from the fold. Sometimes, we get lost because we’re not watching the path that leads to safety. We’re too busy looking down at our lists of obligations and duties. Sometimes we drift away from the fold because of some wound that just won’t heal. We just don’t feel like being with the rest of the sheep. Sometimes we get off course because we get angry about something or another. Sometimes sickness just saps our energy. I know—some of us don’t literally leave the fold—we’re just not really as interested or committed to the cause as we once were. We go through the motions of spirituality. And I’m glad that if you or I should ever wander away from the flock, wind up in a wilderness that is dark, lonely, and frightening, we know we have a shepherd—a God that we’ve come to know in Jesus—who loves us enough to come looking for us to bring us back home!
Thought for the day: We can take comfort in knowing that even if we wander away from the safety of the fold of God’s sheep, for whatever reason, that God will come looking for us!
Prayer: O God, sometimes I feel far from you. And that is not because you have failed me, but because I have gotten distracted, distraught, or disappointed. When I am in the wilderness, help me to stop my running, let you find me, and be renewed in my faith. Amen.