Loss and Hope

Luke 15:1-10 ~ 11 Sep 2022 ~ by Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

                When Jesus explained to the Pharisees why he was ‘consorting’ with sinners; he tells them a couple stories – parables we call them. 

                The first story was about a shepherd.  Jesus often told stories about sheep and the shepherds who looked after them.  Although lambs and sheep were a food staple for first century Israel, and were often given in sacrifice to God, there seemed to be something more in a shepherd-sheep relationship.  A good shepherd, Jesus said, was willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  And the sheep would follow a good shepherd because he would call each of them by name.  Wow.  I had trouble enough coming up with names for my two children – just think about trying to name 50 or a hundred!

Well, this particular shepherd actually did have a 100 sheep.  And although I can’t quite figure how someone could count 100 milling, roaming sheep, this shepherd noticed that one of them was missing!  One.  The shepherd was, of course, rightly concerned about the 99 sheep that were still where they should be, but the idea of that one missing sheep made him gnaw his lip in worry.  Anything could have happened to his well-loved Georgie, anything at all! 

The shepherd looked back at the 99.  They seemed pretty much okay, so he spiraled around and out further and further, looking and calling for his lost one.  He angled up a hillside,  then angled down it; he muddied his feet by the stream – almost lost a sandal; he wove in and out and around piles and pillars and scatterings of rocks.  “Georgie!” he called.  “Geoooor-gyyy!”

It was starting to get dark, he needed to get back to the 99 and herd them close together for the night.  He came across Sam, another shepherd watching after his own flock as he cornered briefly into the next little valley.  “Hey, Sam!  Have you seen one of my sheep anywhere?”

“No, man.  Just my own 58.  Which one you looking for?”

“Georgie.”

“Aww, that’s tough, man!  Georgie’s a prince!”

The shepherd decided he’d search all night if he had to.  He could duck back to his 99 every now and again to make sure they were still alright.  “Geoooor-gyyy!  Georgie!  Where are you?”  Wait.  What was that?  Was that a ‘bleep’, a ‘blatt’?  It was!  Over there by the stream! And there was Georgie himself, stuck in the mud up to his curly-wool belly.

“Georgie!  Georgie, there you are!  What in the world are you doing way over here?”

“Bleep.”  Georgie wasn’t much of a talker, but the shepherd could tell he was really sorry for causing so much trouble… and really happy to be found.  The shepherd did loose a sandal in the mud this time – but it was okay because he had his Georgie back.  He pulled and pushed and twisted Georgie out of the mud and up across his shoulders.

“You’re puttin’ on weight, Georgie!” quipped the shepherd.  “I won’t be able to carry you like this much longer.  HEY SAM! I FOUND GEORGIE – HE’S OKAY!”

“That’s great, man,” came the distant reply.

The shepherd turned his head so he could look Georgie in the eye.  “You stay with me, Georgie!  You’re safe with me.  I’ll take good care of you right to the very end.  You know that, right?”

“Blaaaatttt!”  Georgie seemed pretty confident about that.

What’s this got to do with eating dinner with sinners?  Well, although it would be quite the coincidence if even one of those sinners reclining at the table was named Georgie, there was no doubt at all that those rough and tumble, sly hucksters were in the presence of The Good Shepherd…  The Good Shepherd who was trying to find and rescue them.  The Good Shepherd who would take good care of them right to the very end.  Some of them had the feeling something like that was in the offing.

The Pharisees were invited to the party – all sinners welcomed.  They sneered, rolled their eyes and shuffled down the road with an occasional backward glance.  ‘Well,’ thought The Good Shepherd, ‘there’ll be time to pull them out of the mud… if they want to be pulled out, that is.’  He turned back to the dinner-folk who were politely waiting for him.  He had some pretty important things to talk over with them…

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