Saturday, March 30th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 30th: Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 32; and Luke 15:1-10. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
I don’t know any shepherds. You could tell me just about anything about shepherding and I would be gullible. Jesus, on the other hand, was speaking to people who definitely knew about shepherding or were possibly shepherds themselves. In that case, Jesus couldn’t get away with saying something that didn’t make sense.
With this in mind, consider the details of Jesus’ parable of the one lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the 99 “in the wilderness.” The 99 are left unattended. They're not penned-in somewhere safe. They are left "in the wilderness." In such a case, they can scatter, and they are susceptible to predators. Still, the shepherd leaves the 99 to search for the one.
This is illogical to me who knows nothing about shepherding. It must have been absolutely farcical to the actual shepherds listening to Jesus. This had to be His intent. Jesus is making the point of how illogical God’s love is. As we will talk about tomorrow in church, God’s love, Christ’s love, is unconditional. It is not dependent on logic. It is dependent on the nature of God. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” reveals the Lord to His prophet. (Isa. 55:8-9)
Jesus seems to be saying that it’s the whole that matters. The one is just as important as the 99, not as in less than or more than, but because all that matters is the whole. The shepherd cannot accept the loss of any of the sheep. The illogical nature of this action would have been recognized immediately by the people of Jesus’ day and that would have seized their attention, would have started them thinking about what could this Galilean carpenter be talking about? And as soon as they start to think, Jesus has His opening. Jesus can try to persuade them to move past the illogical so that they may consider the revelation of the nature of God’s illogical, unconditional love.
The message of the one lost sheep may be hard to accept, but God’s thoughts are not ours, and it’s not God whose mind we should expect to change.
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