Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to Jesus to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, 'This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.'
So he told them this parable: 'Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost." Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.'
(Church in Wales Lectionary from the New Revised Standard Version)
We have already come across the lost sheep parable a few months ago (The sheep that escapes) in Matthew's Gospel, but here is Luke's version, who makes it quite clear that Jesus is calling sinners. This parable reminded me of a story by Anthony de Mello, in his book 'The Song of the Bird'. He says:
'A sheep found a hole in the fence and crept through it. He wandered far and lost his way back. Then he realised that he was being followed by a wolf. He ran and ran, but the wolf kept chasing him, until the shepherd came and rescued him and carried him lovingly back to the fold.
In spite of everyone's urgings to the contrary, the shepherd refused to nail up the hole in the fence.'
Are you somewhat bemused now? Why on earth would a shepherd allow his sheep an escape route? But this is a modern-day parable. God is the Shepherd and we sinners are the sheep, and when we run from him he allows this to happen because we have freedom of will. However, when life becomes dangerous and we cry to Him for help, He will rescue us.
wen we choose to go our own way,
and ignore Your wishes,
rescue us from our disastrous course,
and bring us back to You.
When things go wrong,
forgive us our mistakes,
and keep us safe.