“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?”
She turned the house upside down. After weeks of searching, in between the usual routines of living, she finally found it, clutching it againt her breast in tears. No, it wasn’t a nine-carat diamond ring or a winning lottery ticket. It was an old pen, tarnished by time and no longer serviceable. During their college years, her husband wrote her every day they were apart with this pen. The letters, carefully wrapped in a bundle, had been destroyed in a fire years before and not long after her husband’s death. The pen was all she had to remind her of those letters.
On the surface, of course, there was no value to be perceived in this old writing instrument. To anyone else it was fit for nothing but to be discarded. But for her it represented the one she had loved and who loved her.
The story of the Good Shepherd goes even futher. Unlike the pen in story above, there is nothng intrinsically lovable in us that God should seek us. This can come as something of a shock to a creature that is convinced it is the center of the universe. The fact is that human beings are expendable assets in this world and not all that lovable. Nevertheless, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to seek after the one lost sheep. The self-righteous who heard Jesus tell this story had long since convinced themselves that they were better off without those who wandered away from righteousness. Good ridance. They also might have questioned the wisdom of leaving ninety-nine sheep defenseless in order to search for one. Isn’t a bird in the hand worth more than two in the bush? The math doesn’t work! Well, maybe not in our calculations but God’s math is different. It is the mathematics of grace.
The grace of God is extravagant beyond calculation. The Good Lord does not wait for us to make our way back to Him. Not only can we not do so, we do not want to do so. The Good News is that God seeks us in our bondage to sin, in our lostness. God has taken the initiative not because He has lost something that in and of itself has infinite worth but beacause He chooses to do so, out of sheer grace and mercy. Thanks be to God!
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
photo from flickr and heavenboundiwillbe