O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’
Jesus said: … does [the shepherd] not … go in search of the one that went astray?
How often do we find ourselves searching for something that was not where we expected to find it? Perhaps a wallet, or a set of keys; perhaps a book or our spectacles? No matter what we may have mislaid, that item will become the focus of our attention until the moment when it is found again. All else will be driven from our minds as different anxieties and emotional responses dominate our thinking.
Today’s reading does not provide us with the only moment in the gospel narrative when Jesus speaks of losing, searching and finding: the parables of the lost coin and the prodigal son are just two further examples.
The society in which Jesus lived would have easily understood his use of the image of a lost sheep. They would have grasped the depiction of God as a loving and caring shepherd, just as they would have readily identified themselves with sheep existing under the protection of the Good Shepherd. Similarly, there would have been a clear understanding of the value of sheep. Like modern-day farmers, first-century sheep owners would have known the value of each sheep, and the need to keep them all safe. Jesus’ message today is clear: if human shepherds value their sheep so highly we should be in no doubt that our divine Shepherd values each of us so much more.
There is another aspect to all of Jesus’ ‘lost and found’ parables: they all end in a time of rejoicing. This rejoicing is not just a personal inner glow that something is back in its ‘proper’ place, but rather it is a sense of celebration that is shared with others, and is centred around praise and thanksgiving to God.
We all have times when we feel lost, wandering in a wilderness of despair, hopelessness and even anger. In such times we need to recall Jesus’ words to his disciples, that the Good Shepherd, Jesus himself, is searching for us. He knows our feelings of confusion and abandonment; he is actively seeking us out in order that we might be brought back into his nearer presence, into that time of rejoicing that will surely accompany our homecoming.
Watchful at all times, let us pray for strength to stand with confidence before our Maker and Redeemer.
That God may bring in his kingdom with justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may establish among the nations his sceptre of righteousness, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may seek Christ in the scriptures and recognize him in the breaking of the bread, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may bind up the broken hearted, restore the sick and raise up all who have fallen, let us pray to the Lord.
That the light of God’s coming may dawn on all who live in darkness and the shadow of death, let us pray to the Lord.
That, with all the saints in light, we may shine forth as lights for the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Let us commend the world, which Christ will judge, to the mercy and protection of God.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the
light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Uniting our prayers with the whole company of heaven,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon us,
scatter the darkness from before our path,
and make us ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.