Luke 15:4 – Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? (NIV)
Psalm 23:2 – He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. (NIV)
When we retired and moved to the Muskoka area, we were without the benefit of feeling that we belonged to a church community. We were in need of a flock with which to unite in a spiritual sense. There were days of agony, the feeling of loneliness, and the feeling of being separated from a community that had for many years provided strong support for our faith. We did not really appreciate the importance that the church community had played in our lives until we were without its protective security. We longed to be part of that community. The feeling was deep and intense. In terms of time, the duration of the loneliness was short-lived.
The parable of the lost sheep came to our minds once again. It had always been a great source of comfort and strength in time of difficulty and distress. Throughout the period of separation, we had the sense that a shepherd was searching for us. Through this experience, we learned three lessons. First, the Holy Spirit guides the true shepherd. Second, there are people in the church that follow the Master's footsteps and call out to those in need of a spiritual home. They take the role of shepherding seriously. We sensed their caring attitude, and we sensed their compassion for our condition. Their care and compassion and our need met in a way that enlarged our understanding of what the parable of the lost sheep means in the 21st century. The third lesson was one of learning to be patient and learning not to panic. Panic has the effect of destroying one's faith and one's sense of nearness to the shepherd. Panic also has the effect of shutting out the voice of the true shepherd.
The experience gave us a new understanding of a verse in our favourite psalm, Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd never abandons the sheep. He was always with us. There was no need to panic or feel any doubt. Learning to follow the shepherd and heeding His voice brought us to lie in green pastures and beside still waters.
Prayer: O heavenly Father, You are a shepherd to the people who hear Your voice and obey Your commands. We pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire the church to call to those who, like sheep, have gone astray. May we learn to hear Your voice and recognize it in the rush and busyness of everyday life. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.