9-7-16 - One Percent

Jesus’ parables are sneaky. They lead you one way, and then, bam!, swerve somewhere that contradicts common sense and practice. "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” At first glance, you think, “Yeah! I’d go after that lost little sheep…” On second thought... would you really leave 99 valuable livestock unprotected and search for one?

Maybe so, Jesus suggests. Remember, he’s answering the question, “Why do you eat with sinners?” A question hiding under that one is: “Shouldn’t you hang out with the righteous folks, like us?”

Jesus says that his time in this earthly life is to be spent seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) The “ninety-nine” can look after each other. Someone has to look for the wanderers, explorers of steeper paths, the ones who chased greener pastures only to look up and find themselves alone in the deep, dark woods. Presumably, the "right-living" sheep already make heaven pretty happy. The recovery of the lost sheep is cause for special rejoicing.

I once heard a bishop suggest that churches program for the people who aren’t there, rather than ones who are. A church-goer took issue with that – “What about us? Don’t we count?” This is the cry of the ninety-nine.

In the “both/and” realm of God, it doesn’t have to be a choice – yet Jesus does suggest where his followers are to put our energy. Do we have enough “bandwidth” to care for one another AND to follow Jesus out to the ravines and scary places where lost sheep are apt to be found, those who do not know the love of the Good Shepherd, who may even feel pretty unlovable? I think we do – especially if we enhance our capacity with the infinite power and love of the Spirit.

Here are some prompts for prayer and reflection today:
List everything you do to nurture your own church community – activities, funds, prayer. Do you hear the sound of rejoicing in heaven? You’re giving a huge gift.

Now, list the ways you reach out to the people who might be “outliers” – not so much funding and feeding, but how you personally interact with people outside your circle. Our goal might be to aim for balance, maybe even tipping a little toward the outlier sheep.

Who comes to mind when you think of “lost sheep” in your life or community? God may send you to someone in particular… give it a moment and see who comes up. If you get a name or face, stay with it. Ask God to bless that person, and to show you where and how you might come close to them.

Our goal is not to invite him to church, or to “get her help.” Our goal is to go and be with, offering a relationship that is mutual (we all have “lost” parts in ourselves…) – and invite the Shepherd himself to lead him or her back into wholeness.

If you remember a time when you were lost and someone found you, you know how it works. There was a LOT of rejoicing.

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