God’s rejoicing love

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

There has always been something that puzzled me about the parable of the lost sheep: who was keeping the ninety-nine sheep safe whilst the shepherd was away looking for the one? That they must be being kept safe is clear, otherwise the parable would make no sense.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Luke 18; 12-14

I found something out yesterday that made everything fall into place: in Judea, shepherds would have looked after a communal flock of sheep together. I am now imagining a group of three or four shepherds counting their shared flock of sheep as evening draws in and finding one missing. One would then volunteer to do the dangerous job of searching for the lost sheep, while the others would take the ninety-nine to safety. The lone shepherd would then search cliff faces in the fading light, listening to predators call to each other in the distance. After finding the sheep, maybe in the bottom of a particularly inaccessible ravine, he would heave it onto his shoulders and, with it, climb up to safety and carry it home.

This scenario then makes the celebration on the shepherd’s return much more understandable to me. The waiting would have been tense, eyes would have scanned the horizon, and nervous discussions would have turned over thoughts on where the sheep might be, with all trying not to say the worst out loud. Instead of being happy on the returning shepherd’s behalf, therefore,the village would have taken a full share in the joy and relief that the shepherd felt by bringing the sheep back.

This perspective says something beautiful to me about God’s love: it is a rejoicing love. It is not tainted with resentment of the successful search; the sheep is found for everyone’s benefit. What’s more, the idea of giving a sheep a moral lecture about its foolishness is absurd. All is forgiven, all is celebration.

God’s love is also a searching and a saving love. It does not wait for the repentant sheep to return but goes out, finds it, and brings it home. There is love that damages, and love that softens, but God’s love saves and protects. It protects all of us, and transforms the headstrong, the wilful and the selfish into a part of a combined and cherished whole.

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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