The story of the lost sheep
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:1-7 NIV
This is a story worth telling over and over again, but I think in this season it has a new meaning. I’ve been reviewing the stories (parables) of Jesus from the perspective of Easter looking back. That’s has provided an interesting view for many of Jesus’ stories, but this story has a particular new context as we approach Easter 2020.
So often this story is told as a means to encourage the church (the 99) to seek after the lost (the one). And that is a great way to look at this story … leave the safety of your church walls and search after those in need of a shepherd. But we are already outside of the church this year.
The story is also told so that the lost (the one) might know that God is searching for them.
Again I love that message, but the lost (the one) have to be around to hear it.
And it is that idea that has me rethinking this entire story. You see, suddenly the greater church has had to take their message beyond their walls. Overnight it seems the church has discovered that technology has evolved past the 1900s. The church has discovered online meetings, online streaming, cell phones, texting, and shockingly THE INTERNET!
All kidding aside, this rush to connect with people has created an interesting outcome.
More people are connecting to the messages of the church than ever before.
People that rarely entered the doors of our buildings are connecting through technology.
The message of God’s love is reaching more people today than a month ago.
And that is a really good thing! But it also reveals a problem. Have you stopped to ask
Why are more people connecting to the church?
The easy answer is there are no atheists in a foxhole,
but I really don’t think that is entirely what is happening here. This is something more!
I truly believe that for the first time across our culture, people are able to connect with church without having to deal directly with God’s people. Let me repeat that ….
people are able to connect with church
without having to deal directly with God’s people.
Is it possible that the 99 in the story Jesus told drove away the one or at least kept the one from having a safe place amidst the 99?
I don’t have an answer yet, but I am hopeful that this time away from the church building will cause us to ask, what practices can we leave behind so that those that found us through technology outside of our buildings will also find their way into the community that gathers inside a building.
And with that thought, may God forgive us for the things we have done that kept the ONEs from gathering in the safety of our Churches. Give us the heart and eyes of The Good Shepherd to seek and bring home the ONEs. And may we find comfort in the knowledge that we have all been that ONE at some point in our lives.