THE LOST SHEEP
Today’s parable is one that Jesus tells his followers shortly after he describes true greatness as becoming like humble children. He adds, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Jesus often tells his disciples- and is telling us as well- to care for the lowest and the least of humanity. He follows up this instruction with the parable of the lost sheep.
Light the Prophecy, Bethlehem and Shepherd Candles.
Matthew 18:12-13 (NRSV)
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
1 John 3:1 (NRSV)
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.
We can be Perceivers of Joy in so many ways here!
The shepherd’s joy in finding the lost sheep extends to us for several reasons. First, we find the joy in knowing that God loves and seeks us first- even before we know we are lost- and that God has joy in doing so. We find the joy of knowing that God will go to great lengths to find any one of us when we stray. (We may wonder how the shepherd could leave the 99 sheep to seek the one. Sheep huddle together for safety and protection- so the 99 still have one another.)
We also find joy when Jesus tells his disciples to welcome the children- and then to see that WE are his children! We are included as the least of these. In that humility, we recognize that all of us, all people everywhere, are merely children; but we are God’s beloved children. And we are all in this together, called to “huddle” and help and love and serve one another. We are then called to share this joy of Christ and community, reaching out for others who are longing to be embraced into the fold.
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for seeking and finding us. Make us your joyful servants- to become beacons of your light for those who need one. Show us how to help one another, and how to welcome everyone into your loving presence. Amen.