I went for a walk along our lane just before writing this. I’d just finished recording the
address for the Nidd Valley Circuit on line service for Sunday morning and was coming
back to write this thought for the week. The gospel reading for this Sunday morning is
Luke 15:1-10 and is the story of the lost sheep – the one where Jesus tells of the
shepherd who left 99 sheep in the fold whilst he went to search for the one who was lost.
Having just recorded a sermon on this text I thought I needed a different angle so as I
walked I was thinking about what I was going to write.
As I walked and thought I suddenly noticed two sheep coming round a bend in the lane
towards me! Just as I was thinking to myself ‘oh no – what do I do now – these are big
animals’ one of the neighbours appeared behind the sheep – he was trying to get them
back to the field from which they’d escaped. I offered to help and was very pleased when
he said he thought he could manage – they really are BIG animals and I wasn’t confident I
could help much – I continued to the end of the lane and turned round to come back
I hadn’t walked very far when what should I see coming towards me down the road but …
two sheep – closely followed by a car and, once again, our neighbour who was now trying
to get the car to stop! The driver had to stop as the road was very narrow and there was
only just enough room for us to pass. This meant that my neighbour was able to overtake
the car too and herd the sheep back in the opposite direction. He asked the car driver
why he hadn’t stopped when the sheep were in front of him as he was, in effect, driving
the sheep towards the main road. The driver replied (and I will not use the language he
used here!) “I don’t care about ** sheep – I just want to get home for my tea”!
The neighbour and I then managed to get the sheep back to the field from which they’d
come and he stayed there as he phoned the farmer to come because there was a hole in
the gate which is how the sheep had escaped. I carried on home thinking to myself “lost
sheep – shepherds – what does this have to say to me about the gospel reading I’m
I suppose that sheep get lost because they are not content with where they are and see
an opportunity to get to what they think will be a better place – however – the grass, as we
know, is not always greener on the other side.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a wonderful story told by Jesus to illustrate the love and
compassion that God has for every person and is told in response to Jesus being
criticised and attacked by the religious leaders for “eating with sinners”. The religious
leaders, also known as the Pharisees, had hearts filled with wrong motives and prejudice
and they could not believe Jesus would associate with these types of people. Jesus
stops the crowd and begins to tell a story of how a shepherd left his flock of 99 sheep to
go find one lost sheep.
This parable displays the beautiful story of God seeking out the lost, rejoicing when they
are found and guiding them back to the fold. God cares about all of us equally and will
stop everything to find us and care for us. The parable is also meant to teach us how we
should care for others regardless of how they look or act. We have been called to love
and care for the lost – even if they are big and scary and even if all we want to do is to go
home and get our tea!
Sometimes the lost don’t know they are lost – they think they are on a big adventure and
will resist being ‘found’ – sometimes it’s hard work to persuade them that the fold is a
good place to be. I wonder how you identify people who need to know about God’s love –
AND – where is the fold? I sometimes wonder if the church has moved so far from what
Jesus intended that it no longer represents the fold – I wonder what you think?
I’m reminded of a poem by J R R Tolkien from The Lord of the Rings
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
AND, just for the record, I’ll be very pleased if I don’t meet any runaway sheep on the
Rev Ruth Parry 11 September 2022