“The Parable of the Lost Sheep”

Luke 15:1-7

We start this week pondering the character of the King of the Kingdom.  Before you dismiss this as “religious kool-aide,” let me point out that the evening news points to the “war” going on in Ukraine as a battle between authoritarian leadership versus democratic leadership.  We know and live out the debates about what constitutes leadership that we as Westerners are willing to follow and support.   We want “voice” in our government and we do not want dictatorships where the beliefs of the elite are imposed on the majority.

         Jesus adds a bit of a twist on this debate.  He tells a parable, a story, of a shepherd with 100 sheep who looses one.   Lest we are tempted to think this is a dictator who has lost one of his countries and is trying to reclaim in, let us remember that Jesus is telling this story in response to criticism by the Pharisees and teachers of the law who were muttering about the company Jesus kept.  The shepherd is not forcing a rebellious sheep back into the fold against its will, but the shepherd is looking for the lost and hurt that he carries on his shoulders to rejoice with friends and neighbors.  He is not slaughtering the sheep to bring it home.  The tone is compassion.  The “kingdom” is not just for people of one flavor or world view or one economic status, people who look like us but Jesus is making the point that the king is inclusive and is willing to be involved in the dirty places of our lives, to find us and carry us to safety.

         So the parable that seems to have strong overlays to our world today challenges me in two ways.  I am challenged to look into my heart and see if I demand that all people “look like me,” be part of my herd, my crew, one of my peeps, doing life the way I do, or can I open my mind and heart to those who tackle life a bit differently.  I might even label them “lost” and yet the Shepherd is willing to find them and bring them back to be loved by me.  But I am also challenged to ponder to what extent differences are dividers that prevent me from looking out for others.

         In any case, God goes out of his way to find us and his desire is that we be in his kingdom, be well fed and cared for, not lost.  As we pray over our world conflicts and the clash of leadership philosophies, may we pray that we can see beyond to a kingdom that is not political and where all, even the lost, are included.  Lord, have mercy on our world.

         Lenten challenge: “In Bolivia, two rural cheese factories help 1,000 local milk producers and their families. Give 25 cents for every dairy product (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream) you ate today.”

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