The flocks were settled in relative safety for the night and the shepherds gather around the campfire as they prepare to take turns keeping watch during the night. There’s the usual banter, conversations about how the day went, where the good grazing was.
Then, one shepherd blurts out, “I feel like celebrating! You just got to celebrate with me.”
“Celebrate? What do you got to celebrate?”
And the shepherd responds with joy, “Well today one of my lambs wandered off. So I found a spot to leave the other 99, so I could search for the one that was missing. Let me tell you it was not easy! I really had a time of it - he was a long way off. But I was so excited when I found him - I just grabbed him up and put him on my shoulders and ran all the way back to my flock. It was so wonderful to bring that little lamb back! Come on celebrate with me! I found the one that was lost!
The other shepherds just looked at each other. Finally, one of them said what everybody was thinking: “You spent all that time and effort on one little lamb? You could have lost your whole flock while you were out searching. Are you crazy?”
The whole street was buzzing. A neighbor lady had hurried from door to door with an unexpected invitation: “Come over to my place, I’m having a party right now! I have such good news - you just won’t believe it! Come and celebrate with me!”
The guests for this impromptu party arrived to see a lavish buffet spread out. She had spared no expense. What could her news be? They couldn’t wait to hear - what could be so exciting? It must be very good news indeed.
Their hostess motioned for quiet and all eyes turned to her as she said: “You won’t believe what happened! I was checking my silver coins - I have 10 of them you know - when I noticed that one was gone. Oh my heart dropped to my stomach! So I started to search everywhere. I got out candles, lit lamps. I checked corners and moved the furniture. I shook out all the linens and emptied drawers. I searched high and low! I spent all day searching for my lost coin - and then I found it! Isn’t that wonderful news! I just had to have everyone in to celebrate!”
There was applause and some murmured congratulations as people turned to enjoy the food and drink laid out for them. But as each made their way back to their home, they shook their heads. What foolishness! She had spent more on that party than the coin was worth! She may have found her coin, but she must’ve lost her marbles to throw party like that!
Crazy love. Foolish determination. Irresistible grace.
That’s the kind of God we have.
God loves each and every one of those created in God’s image – every single person is God’s beloved child. God loves us too much to let us stay lost. God doesn’t rest until the least one is found. God won’t rest until every last one is found.
And each and every time we discover we are lost, we discover that God is already looking for us, has already found us.
That’s the great thing about God’s love and grace. God is the one who does the seeking. The lost lamb just keeps wandering farther and farther away. The lost coin just lays there until it’s found.
I wonder if the lost lamb is Jesus’ metaphor for those tax collectors and sinners – those folks who have gotten so far away from the flock that choosing the wrong path is second nature. Just like that little lamb that is so busy eating and frolicking and looking for the next juicy tidbits to nibble that he doesn’t realize that he’s completely alone, completely lost.
Then the lost coin would be the metaphor for the Pharisees and other righteous folks. They don’t know they are lost. They are busy going about their days, trying to do their best, trying to live a righteous, God-pleasing life. And yet somehow, something is not quite right – something is missing.
They are. Like a coin, they’ve slipped away, dropped on the floor and rolled into a corner.
Either way, lamb or coin, God is not going to leave anyone lost. God is the crazy shepherd, leaving the 99 in the wilderness, to search until the one is brought back, and the flock is made whole again. God is the foolish woman, spending all day searching for that lost coin and then throwing an over the top celebration when it’s found.
Every time a so-called sinner repents, there’s a party in heaven.
Every time someone is baptized, the angels rejoice.
Every time, you turn to God, for any reason, God calls the angels together to celebrate.