I try not to complain about preaching for couple of reasons. One, because I love it. The process of prayer, study, writing, editing, and delivering a sermon is one of the best parts of my vocation. Two, because I’m spoiled. With the exception of a couple of 2 to 3 month stints due to sabbaticals or health issues, in twelve years of ordained ministry, I’ve never worked as a solo priest. There has always been someone (or sometwo) with whom I share the preaching load. That being said, this morning as I opened the lessons for Sunday knowing that I’m not the one preaching, I had one of those, “are we here again already” moments. It seems like I just preached on Luke 15:1-10.
The reality of the Lectionary cycle is that this lesson hasn’t been read on a Sunday in three years, so if I have dealt with this lesson recently, it was probably at a Wednesday service, but there is something about the Lost Parables that is so familiar, it really can cause deja vu. It doesn’t take but a few words past the grumbling Pharisees to realize where we are and to elicit a quick and somewhat emotional response. “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them…” I know where this is going… “does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost?” None Jesus. Not a single person in their right mind would do this. The one dumb lost sheep is not worth the potential cost of losing 99 others that you have to leave alone in the wilderness, subjected to the elements, to wolves, and to thieves, to find it. Same goes for the old lady who spends more on the party she throws on finding one coin than the value of that coin.
It just isn’t something that people do. That’s why these stories have such stickiness. And it’s exactly Jesus’ intent. Nobody does such extravagant things over finding that which has been lost, but God does. All of heaven rejoices when one sinner repents, even more than the joy that is experienced when 99 righteous do their righteous things because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Here’s the rub. All of us are lost. There is no herd of 99 good sheep hanging around dutifully waiting on their shepherd. All of us are, as the old hymn goes, “prone to wander.” So it is that we should all rejoice at how foolish God is to leave the safety of heaven, come to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, seeking to find every last dumbass, self-serving, wandering sheep. Even you and even me.