–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, 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 persons who need no repentance. The Parable of the Lost Coin “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:1-10 ESV).
As missionaries, we spend a lot of our time thinking about those who have never known Jesus, who have never been a part of the sheepfold. As Christians in general, I think we think more often about the “never knowns” than the “have knowns and now are wandering,” but as Christians who are simultaneously saint and sinner, even as we are thinking about the “not knowns” we are sometimes living in a state of being the “have knowns and now are wandering.”
Sometimes it’s so very subtle, the going off from the fold. It can happen even when you are in church every Sunday. I know for me, personally, it’s this subtle bit of wandering that tends to get me lost. It’s the getting caught up in the day to day of life that sends me off into the darkness of an untrodden path. I’m so busy going about my business keeping the kids fed, changed and moderately happy, trying to squeeze in a few hours of work, switching laundry loads and making myself a chocolate cake in a mug at the end of the day as a “huzzah, I made it through,” that I quietly and without really realizing it, wander off. The personal time for sitting down and reading God’s word goes out the window. The prayers from my lips cease altogether. I’ve wandered away, and I didn’t even realize it.
Sometimes we get lost in less subtle ways. Bound by a difficult sin, we are torn from the Church by our own actions. We can’t shake the sin, and in despair or shame we hide from the very place we need to be and the very Person we need to save us. Hurt or disillusioned, we run the other direction when something in life doesn’t go our way. God is to blame, and so we take off and leave the fold. Sometimes we are lured away by a different Gospel that sounds good to our itching ears, but is not the true Gospel.
No matter how we got lost, though, our Savior comes looking for us. In our apathetic gradual slide into an unknown territory, in our defiant anger and flight, in our brokenness which holds us captive, our Savior comes searching for us. He seeks us out and carries us home. He brings us to repentance and delivers to us His forgiveness through the Word proclaimed, the waters of our Baptisms and His Holy Supper. There is great comfort in knowing that the Lord seeks out not only the “never knowns,” but also we poor miserable sinners who are often “the have knowns and now are wandering.” He brings us all into His fold, and He and all the company of heaven, rejoices in each one of us.
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Shepherd who seeks His sheep, as we stray from the fold always come to rescue us, so that we may live in Your fold under Your constant care and protection; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Read last week’s devotion.