Luke 15: 1- 7
15 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “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? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 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.
At one time or another, we have all been lost sheep. We have all gone astray and gotten lost, some of us have just gone slightly off-track, while others have completely gone off the rails!
Jesus knew that none of us are perfect, which is why he reacts so strongly to those who would criticize him for welcoming sinners to hear him and share a meal with them. Jesus knew that we are all sinners and all lost sheep…and that sometimes those who are the most lost are too full of themselves to realize it! Yet even those who would criticize him were worthy of his love.
The whole reason Jesus came to live with us as one of us, was because God knew we would be lost without him, and could never be good enough to earn salvation, so it was given to us, and through the great sacrifice of Christ we were brought safely home.
I never had any illusions about being a lost sheep when I was at my worst, and would like to say that my days ended when I stopped drinking and started going back to church, but the sad truth is that after I was found, I became lost again and again. In fact, I was probably more lost when I, like those who criticized Jesus, thought I was doing just fine, but was actually far off track.
Being human, I continued to make mistakes after I got sober, but at least the progress was usually forward. Even when I became a single father, I did not completely straighten out, as I felt restricted by responsibilities and continued to act-out from time to time when I found a little opening of ‘freedom’. I was not a bad person, but I could still get a bit lost…
It was not until my daughter became a teenager that I really started to work at becoming a better person, and to truly live my faith out-loud. It was while going through the trials of teen angst, school issues, then having to face her addiction and legal problems that my faith grew stronger, and I sought to live my life better than I had before. It was a time when I felt powerless, as I watched someone I loved destroy herself. I was filled fear and frustration, but instead of going further off-track, or just running away, I turned to prayer, and actually began to read and reflect upon the message of hope and redemption found in the Gospels.
It was when I was feeling my most lost and alone, when I felt the most fearful and defeated, that I was able to truly turn myself and my daughter over to the care of God, and by doing this I was also asked for and accept the help of those around me: friends I knew from church, my 12-step group, family, professionals and even my ex-wife. All offered me support, care, advice and a kick in the ass when I needed it! None more so than my girlfriend, who stood with me through it all, and put up with me when I was not handling things well. Her love and support kept me moving forward when all I wanted was to curl up in a ball and hide. She and all of the others were the answers to my prayers, they were like the staff of the Good Shepherd, helping me to stay on track, and find my way back home.
As a parent, and as a person, I have not always been a saint, but that is okay, as none of us are, even if some people don’t want to admit it. We are all in need of God’s saving love, we are all lost sheep. The good news is that we are also surrounded by the grace of God, living in the light of the Risen Christ, which has the ability to pull us out of any darkness, as it is Christ who is the Good Shepherd, come to find us when we are feeling our most lost.
And it is out of God’s great love for us that we have been given this gift of grace, and of new life: Christ, who gives us hope and faith. This faith only grows stronger when it is shared with others. For this is what we are called to do, as recipients of the great gift of forgiveness and salvation, which comes to us through Christ. Our world is filled with lost sheep, seeking shelter and comfort, and as followers of Christ, as Christians, we are like the shepherds leading those who are lost home again!
Let us Pray:
Dear God, thank you for always watching over us, as our Good Shepherd, as any as any good parent would do for their children. Please help us never to stray too far from following the path of Christ, but let us be able accept your forgiveness when we do. Thank you for answering our prayers through the compassion, support and guidance of others, and through the great sacrifice of Jesus, who not only died for us, but lived with us in order to know our struggles. Help us to share the light of the risen Christ with all those in need, so that it will grow bright enough to lead all of the lost sheep home to your love.