FINDING WHAT WAS LOST
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I was sitting in church one Sabbath morning when I looked across the sanctuary and saw someone I hadn’t seen in church for a long time. Our children had grown up together and we’d been friends, but the busyness of life had taken hold, the children were adults with children of their own, and time just slipped away. But seeing her, I knew I needed to greet her.
When the service was over I saw her get up before anyone else to leave. I jumped up and raced out catching her in the foyer. It was a joyous greeting as we caught up on our lives. I told her I had missed seeing her at church. As we talked other church members walked by, touching her shoulder, offering a hug or a greeting. My husband came along, and they fell into familiar banter. He joked with her about her absence. She laughed and said with a smile, “What happened to my home visit?” While it was all said in good fun, her comment lingered long after we had said our goodbyes.
We’re familiar with the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Both are lost; both are found, and there is a party to celebrate. But key to these two parables is that the sheep and coin did not go looking for their owners. The sheep would have remained lost if the shepherd had not gone after the sheep. Had the woman not looked for her coin, it may never have been found. To find something, one has to go looking for it.
To find something, one has to go looking for it.
While my friend was not lost, I felt that day as if she had been found. I know when I left church that day, and I imagine she did as well, feeling good about being there. We rejoiced in the fellowship together after such a long time. During our conversation, she mentioned her child, now an adult, who had had some difficulties in life and was embarrassed to return to church. “No,” I said, “Tell them to come. They’re family! Tell them to come back.”
Yet the parable’s message isn’t for the sheep to figure out their way back. It’s that, like Jesus, the shepherd seeks the lost sheep. Sometimes we like to believe it’s the pastor’s job—they should go after the sheep. But is it? Aren’t we all tasked with tending the flock? What sheep in your flock have you not seen lately? Perhaps a home visit is in order. In fact, maybe we all need to go looking for sheep. I’m guessing if we do, we will be renewed.
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Kenneth Bailey, a Presbyterian minister, made the following comment concerning the parable of the sheep:
“It is the shepherd’s willingness to go after the one that gives the ninety-nine their real security. If the one is sacrificed in the name of the larger good of the group, then each individual in the group is insecure. He knows that he too is of little value. If lost, he will be left to die. When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.” (Kenneth E. Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of the Middle Eastern Peasants, p. 31).
This is what makes Jesus’ sacrifice for us so amazing and so profound. Jesus didn’t choose to die for one, but all. Yet He would have died for me only. He would have died for you. Because He was willing to go after one sheep, we know He’s willing to seek all sheep. In this, we can trust and depend.
Making it Real
Typically, we defined “lost” people as outside the fold—unbelievers. But I would like to challenge you this week to seek those individuals who may have been missing from your church. The COVID pandemic interrupted our church attendance and when we resumed again, quite a number did not return. Where are they? Have you missed anyone? This week determine to make a call, write an email, or make a visit. Go seek the “lost” and invite them home.
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, who’s delighting everyone with her smiles. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.