Saturday, September 14, 2013

On sheep and shepherds - a love story for Trinity 16

I wonder if it has ever struck you that when we gather here for worship week on week, we do so in celebration of a love story.
Perhaps that's stating the obvious...
We know, don't we, that God so loved the world...but sometimes we need reminding just what that means.
It's all too easy to get caught up measuring our own goodness or lack thereof – and it's even easier to find ourselves making judgements about the lives of others – the way they dress, spend their money, discipline their children...
A prime example this past week was Michael Gove's criticism of the lifestyles of some who use foodbanks – and I know that his views are shared by others who are só intent on making value judgements about other people that they've almost lost sight of our shared humanity.
That tendency to weigh others in the balance and find them wanting is not confined to the Pharisees who accosted's alive and well in our community and even in our church...but that's NOT what the gospel is about.

The gospel is all about love.

It's that which means we're in no position to judge. Even if we managed, as the Pharisees believed that they did, to obey every letter of the law we would trip up over our failure to love.
Jesus begins his story, as he só often does, by asking a question
 ‘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?
It's a good question...só stop for a minute to think about your answer.

If you had 99 sheep trotting along happily– would you REALLY bother to go in search of the 1 that couldn't play nicely? The loner, the trouble maker, the one who didn't fit in?
Would you risk the safety of the flock – just leave them amid all the dangers of the wilderness while you went to look for JUST ONE???
It doesn't seem prudent. It doesn't even seem kind.
All those good little sheep deserve care and attention. Surely a good shepherd should not just abandon them...

No, Jesus, I don't think I'd answer your question in the way that you hope.
If I were the shepherd, then the flock would be left sheep lost forever.

But thankfully I'm not the shepherd.

I'm one of the sheep. And só are you. Perhaps you feel that you're one of the majority, grazing calmly with your fellows, travelling obediently along the path that is set before you...And that might make you a little sad, even indignant when the shepherd – and the Church that exists to join in with His work – insists on making such a fuss about the missing sheep. What's so special about that one missing sheep after all? It's not exactly a prize merino, is it...WHY does it matter.

It matters, of course, because God loves it with a love that WILL NOT LET HIM REST until the flock is complete.
That's the gospel..the good news for all of us.....because, you know, actually each of us is also that one lost sheep...
Willfull....Confused....Downright disobedient......We've all chosen to wander away from the Shepherd from time to time....but HE NEVER EVER LEAVES US ASTRAY
He loves us too much.

I was once at a toddler group when one of a pair of twins vanished.
One moment their mother was happily chatting to a friend, the next she had abandoned the conversation and was scanning every corner of the room for her missing son. It didn’t matter that her daughter was safely by her side…she needed to find that small boy so badly he might have been the only child she had. Her daughter, though, was sensible. As her mother swooped off to the furthest corners of the room, she was followed by a small but determined figure, who had no intention of letting her mother out of her sight.
The whole drama didn’t last long, and ended in a happy reunion behind a stack of tables.…but for a brief period maybe those of us involved had an inkling of the way God feels about each one of us. He loves us so much, that we might be his only child. He actively seeks us out when we have wandered away or broken off communications with Him. It’s almost as if He feels incomplete when one of us is missing. He takes every risk, right down to sending his own Son, to seek us out and rescue us.

And that leaves us with another question...
Are WE in the right place?
perhaps we should ask ourselves whether, if the one sheep is with the shepherd, it might not be the 99 who have gone astray
If Jesus is somewhere out there on the margins, hunting for missing sheep, shouldn’t we be out there with him. Surely the most important question for each of us is not
Is Jesus with me?” but “Am I where Jesus is” for we can trust him to lead us into new pastures, to keep us from harm, and indeed to lay down his life for us.

That's just the way love works.

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