I am sitting at the church table—the only one in the restaurant that said grace before eating. The people with questionable reputations, the ones from whom my church taught me to keep my distance, have pulled up extra chairs around Jesus’ table. My circle thinks the people with Jesus are laughing too loud. He overhears the grumbling. Our visible discomfort leads to an impromptu story about sheep.
One hundred sheep have gone out for a big dinner, but one gets lost. We might think that one of the other sheep would care enough for their friend to go looking for the lost one, but all of the rams and ewes are too busy with the food in front of them to notice. Or maybe they think it’s the sheep’s own fault: “How many times do we have to tell her that there are wolves out there?” Staying with the flock is easier than looking for those who have gotten themselves into trouble.
But the shepherd leaves the flock to retrieve the one who needs him. This may not be the first time the shepherd has gone looking for this particular sheep, but that doesn’t matter. When he discovers the lost one, he is so happy because there’s more joy in going to find one who needs help than in spending the day with a flock that isn’t going anywhere.
We miss a lot when we only care about the people right in front of us. We won’t see much if we stay in the middle of the flock. We need to look for those on the edges who might wander off or wander in. Jesus says that is where the fun is.
Who might you see if you looked on the periphery?
God, help me to be grateful for your shepherding. Teach me to care for your sheep more like you care for me. Amen.