O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ
comes again as judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God. Amen.
Psalm 96.1, 10-13
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king.
He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it;
Let the fields be joyful and all that is in them;
let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord.
For he comes, he comes to judge the earth;
with righteousness he will judge the world
and the peoples with his truth.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
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.’
Have you ever got lost? Perhaps you have been walking in an unfamiliar town, or perhaps you have been driving through unfamiliar countryside, when it has dawned upon you that you are lost. Can you remember (or imagine) the feelings of confusion, fear and panic? Can you also remember the feeling of overwhelming relief when you were either found, or when you got back to surroundings that were familiar to you. In our modern age of Satnavs and other such devices we get lost less frequently, but it does happen, and when it happens the panic engendered by being let down by our modern technology can be even greater and more vivid.
So, having reflected on a moment when we have got lost, let us turn to the single sheep in today’s reading. Being in a flock with ninety-nine other sheep offers comfort and consolation. Being separated from the other ninety-nine must bring on those feelings of alarm and fear that we have just tried to recall. When we get lost we often become incoherent because of our fear, the sheep separated from the rest of the flock does not have the option of asking his or her way back. The alarm and the fear must be overwhelming.
Today Jesus is once again speaking of the human capacity to get it wrong. We all take wrong turns in our lives. We all get lost from time to time. Jesus is, of course, not talking about being lost in the geographical sense. Rather, he is talking about being the member of the flock who is spiritually lost. He is speaking of those who have lost all sense of direction in relation to their moral compass. He is asking us to reflect on our commitment to living the life of faithful discipleship, the life that rejects the temptations that lead us astray, the life that gives us an ever-strengthening relationship with God.
When human beings get things wrong, when they make wrong decisions or become involved in acts that are contrary to God’s teaching, they become lost. When we are dishonest, whether in large or small matters, or when we turn our backs on the needs of those more vulnerable than ourselves, we are lost. When we decide that our own wisdom is superior to the divine wisdom of God, or when we exploit the generosity or incapacity of others, then we are lost. In those negative times we find ourselves wandering in the wilderness alone, in urgent and desperate need of companionship, generosity and love.
Today Jesus is charging us to avoid being the single sheep which gets lost. He is also charging us to take on the role of the shepherd. Jesus does not just want us to lead ‘good’ lives, he also wants us to lead lives that reflect his love for all. He wants us to let others know the joy, the warmth, the companionship and the comfort of Christian love. He wants us to be ever watchful for those who may be wandering from the sheepfold. He wants us to remember what it feels like to be lost and to help others in the same position.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God, by whose love all people are sustained and restored.
May Jesus the great Shepherd protect his flock the Church and lead back those who go astray. Grant to your people true repentance and the joy of knowing forgiveness for their sins.
As the people of the world wander like sheep that are lost, guide them into the way of peace. Grant the vision of your holiness to those who defame and seek to destroy the faith.
Give us grace to sympathise with our friends and neighbours in their sorrow and to rejoice with them in their joy. Make us quick to discern troubles in our community and ready to relieve them.
Comfort those who are sad because one they love is far away from them. Bless all who are lonely and away from home. Keep them safe and bring them happy reunion with those they love.
Grant rest and peace to the dead, through the mercy of Christ who came into the world to save sinners. Gather them into their true and eternal home.
As lost sheep brought back to the true fold, we pray through Christ our Shepherd.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.
The Lord’s Prayer
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. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
O Christ the Word incarnate,
O wisdom from on high,
O truth unchanged, unchanging,
O light of our dark sky,
we praise thee for the radiance
that from the hallowed page,
a lantern to our footsteps
shines on from age to age.
William Walsham How (1823–1867)