Imagine you’ve spent an entire day running errands around town. When you get home, you realize something is missing. Would you go back and retrace every step if you were missing a penny? What about a favorite book? Your wedding ring or favorite piece of jewelry? If you’re like me, you would run an internal cost/benefit analysis to determine an item’s worth before deciding to go back to find it. Penny? No way. Ring? No question.
So Jesus’ opening question leaves me scratching my head. Would a shepherd leave ninety-nine vulnerable sheep in the wilderness to go find one, no matter how long the search takes, no matter that the one is likely beyond saving? Probably not. It doesn’t make economic sense to risk ninety-nine to save one. So maybe Jesus’ question wasn’t rhetorical but ironic, showing the difference between the world’s economy and God’s.
In the world’s economy, we are constantly weighing the value of each activity, possession, and, yes, human life, whether consciously or unconsciously. In the world’s economy, we hold on to the ninety-nine who have stayed rather than risking everything for the one who has wandered. In the world’s economy, we maintain systems that keep us comfortable even when others are left out.
But in God’s economy, no one is lost or forgotten. In God’s economy, no matter how many are safe, God doesn’t rest until ALL are found and restored. This is the good news: When we are lost, before we even realize that we are lost, God is searching, sweeping, traversing the wilderness, ready to carry us home. And once we are found, God calls us to join the eternal search for every last person who is vulnerable, alone, or lost.
God, we keep drifting, wandering, losing our way. Find us and carry us home. Then help us to be finders like you, seeking the ones in our families, communities, and world who are lost, left behind, or overlooked. Amen.
Jeremiah’s warning of coming judgment continues. The children of Israel have become foolish, have ignored God, and have become good mainly at doing evil. God is going to respond to this situation. The psalmist describes the state of all who are foolish: They deny God and follow their own corrupt desires, including oppressing the poor. The author of First Timothy, traditionally Paul, says that this was also his former way of life. He has been foolish and ignorant, a persecutor of the followers of Christ. In fact, he had been the worst of all sinners; yet Christ has shown him mercy, not judgment. Jesus tells two parables to reveal God’s heart. Rather than neglecting the ignorant, the foolish, and the lost, God searches to find each one of us.
Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. How do your actions show others that you know God?
Read Psalm 14. When have you, like the psalmist, felt that no one knows God? How did you have faith that God would restore God’s people?
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Recall a time when you felt unworthy of Christ’s full acceptance. How has that experience made you more grateful for Christ’s mercy?
Read Luke 15:1-10. In a world full of death and violence, how do you rejoice when God finds one lost person?
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