The Parable Of Found Sheep

Once upon a time there was a shepherd with one hundred sheep. One day, however, the shepherd noticed that one of his sheep was missing. After giving the ninety-nine sheep some parting instructions, the shepherd left them in the open country in search of the missing sheep.

Almost immediately, some of the remaining sheep began to grumble.

“Why would he leave us behind? This makes no sense. There are ninety-nine of us here and only one that is lost.”

“I entirely agree. Mr. Shepherd should have more appreciation for the ninety-nine who are here. We’re always on time. We never wander. And we never deviate from our routine.”

“You’ve got that right! And besides, that lost lamb is always exploring places he shouldn’t. Remember that time he got himself caught in a thicket?”

“I do! But that’s the way the lambs are these days. It’s not like when you and I were lambs you know.”

“I realize that. And doesn’t Mr. Shepherd understand that these wandering lambs often return on their own? They just need some time to themselves. How does that proverb go again?”

“You mean the one that says, ‘Raise up a lamb in the way he should go and he will not soon depart from it’?”

“That’s the one! You would think that Mr. Shepherd would just be more patient—just sit back and wait–like the rest of us.”

“Well, what’s done is done. Mr. Shepherd is gone and we need to develop a plan to keep the rest of us safe.”

“But what about Mr. Shepherd’s parting instructions? When he said we need to…”

“Don’t you get it? Mr. Shepherd is not around. We need to look after ourselves. Plus, don’t you think Mr. Shepherd would want us to try and survive? Taking chances doesn’t seem prudent given our current predicament. It’s a scary world out there–lots of wolves and wild dogs. We need to stay focused on us–you know, the ninety-nine that didn’t cause any trouble.”

“OK, I get that. So, what should we do?”

“Glad you asked. I know some sheep from the pasture beyond the ravine, and what they did is they formed committees.”

“Committees?”

“Yes, committees. Ninety-nine is the perfect number to divide into three committees. These committees will ensure that we’ll be well-fed and safe for a long, long, time. You and I will each convene a committee, and we’ll ask Meek if he’ll convene the other.”

“Sounds good. What will the committees be responsible for?”

“Well, if you’re asking about our common vision, that’s easy: Self-preservation. As for the distinct committee mandates, I have some ideas. We definitely need a defence committee. This group will be responsible for our safety plan. They’ll make recommendations regarding protection from outsiders, and they’ll be charged with showing us the best places to hide.”

“Who will take that committee?”

“I will–I’m great at hiding.”

“What committee do you want me to take?”

“You should take the land management committee. We need someone to make sure we don’t overtax a particular part of our pasture. These sheep need to realize that if they are too active, it is hard on the environment. The best way to keep our land in good shape is to minimize our movement.”

“Roger that. And the third committee? That must be the search committee?”

“Search committee?! Are you kidding me?! Have you been listening to anything I’ve been saying? It’s dangerous out there! We’re not trekking to some place we’ve never been before. Besides, Mr. Shepherd is out ‘searching’ for his precious lamb–he doesn’t need us.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“I know I’m right. The third committee will be our food distribution committee. Meek will take that one—although he’ll definitely need to be more assertive.”

“You really think we need a food distribution committee? I mean, we really just eat the grass and plants around here.”

“I see you’ve already forgotten about those sacks of grain Mr. Shepherd has.”

“Oh, I did forget!”

“That grain is too valuable to be carelessly frittered away. I expect Meek will have to develop some rules governing the consumption of the grain. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him what he has to do.”

“Are you sure we shouldn’t have even a small search committee? I think there are ten or twelve sheep who are actually concerned about that lost little lamb.”

“Tell those sheep to refocus their concern inward—we have a lot of work to do around here! Let me frame this for you another way: What if Mr. Shepherd not only finds the one missing lamb, but what if he finds a bunch of missing sheep out there? If we don’t have a tight grip on that grain supply those newcomers will eat it up in no time!”

“We’re staying put then? No matter what?”

“No matter what. Remember, it’s not our fault these sheep are running away.”

 

May the above parable provoke us to follow the lead of our Good Shepherd (Luke 15:3-7).

The Parable of the Snow-blower

Allow me to give you a little background information. In May of 2006 the MacPhail’s purchased a quaint little A-frame cottage North of Kingston, Ontario. Along with purchasing the cottage, we negotiated the inclusion of a few other items including a snow-blower. I knew a snow-blower would come in handy in this region, which was reputed to have excessive snow accumulation. I had no personal experience operating a snow-blower, but I had heard such great things about them that I deemed it a necessity.

The first winter came and went and, strangely enough, I had no occasion to use the snow-blower. When we were at the cottage, the snow was minimal. When the storms hit, we were in Toronto.

Winter #2: I arrive at the cottage on the evening of December 30, 2007. I park on the road since the driveway is impassable from the snow. ‘No problem’, I think to myself, ‘I’ll just fire-up the snow-blower tomorrow.’ The next day we are walloped by a massive snow storm. I make my way out to the garage and roll out the snow-blower. I’m excited. I’m anticipating the power of the machine and how it will make quick work of these substantial snow piles……but it won’t start. I notice it also has an electric starter, and so I plug it in……still no success. I play around with the choke setting, I manipulate some levers, and prime the gas……still nothing.

After more than an hour of experimentation, I launch an all-out search for the owner’s manual. I can’t seem to recall where I put it. I had never actually read the thing, so I had no instructions to recall from memory.

The storm continued steadily and snow fell for more than 24 hours straight. The accumulation of snow was substantial, to say the least. And, unfortunately, I never succeeded to get my snow-blower started. I was frustrated. I was agitated. I needed this snow-blower to help me cope with the storm. My first instinct was to blame (and kick) this, apparently, faulty piece of machinery. My second instinct was a lot more balanced–Why did I wait almost 2 years before attempting to start the snow-blower? Why did I wait for a massive snow storm before testing the snow-blower? Why hadn’t I read, or at least browsed the instruction manual? How did I allow myself to lose track of the manual?!

As I asked myself these questions, my mind drifted into theological reflection. I suspect that many of us regard God in a similar manner to how I regarded my snow-blower. We’re glad to know that we have God nearby, ‘just in case’. We know something about His power, and we have heard others speaking glowingly about Him, but we have never had any personal experience of Him. Eventually, the storms of life come rolling in and we find ourselves reeling. We call out for God’s help, but get the sense we might be on our own. Our instinct is to shout, ‘God, where are you when I really need you?!’ Our instinct is to blame God.

I want to clarify that the point of this parable is not to portray God as being like a snow-blower that won’t start. Rather, the point of this parable is to note how many of us take for granted the things that will help us cope in the midst of fierce storms.

Snow-blowers, of course, do not stop or reverse storms. Snow-blowers simply clear a path for us in the midst of a storm, or following a storm. Similarly, the Bible most often portrays God walking with us in the midst of trouble, rather than as a God who determines to make sure we never face adversity. Psalm 23 is a great example of this.

I am glad that God is not like a snow-blower that won’t start. I am comforted by the notion that He wants to help me cope with life’s fierce storms. And I am renewed in my awareness that there is something left for me to do. God has provided us with a manual (the Bible) to gives us a sense of how He operates. I don’t think it is wise to wait for a storm to hit before we consult the manual. I suspect we would blame God a lot less for our storms, if we spent more time acquainting ourselves with Him during the pleasant days. There are benefits to familiarizing ourselves with God and His ways even during seasons of ease and prosperity.

This is because God is so much more than my rescue plan. Jesus is so much more than the agent for my celestial insurance policy. He is the Creator who reaches out in love to His creation. I am grateful that ‘the manual’ doesn’t always read like a manual, but rather, it often reads as a letter of affection written by a Father to His children.

This is someone who I will gratefully welcome in a storm, but this is also someone I’d like to interact with everyday. I’m so glad that’s possible.

Please excuse me, it’s time to go find that manual.