Theologian Howard Thurman wrote this passage in 1951. He has since died but his legacy lives on. I really liked his take on the parable of the lost sheep. I hope you enjoy it too.
A sheep was enjoying his grass when he started feeling chilly, he didn’t recall when he started to get cold. The only thing that he remembers is that suddenly he was cold. Then he realized that he had been cold for some time. But, the grass he was eating was so good, he hadn’t noticed.
He also didn’t notice that all the other sheep and the shepherd left. When he looked up, he discovered that he was alone and that all the sheep had gone and he began crying aloud.
The shepherd, who had many sheep, missed him when he got back, and he left his ninety and nine . . . to try to find this sheep that was lost. And Jesus says, “God is like that.” Nothing heavy or theological about that. Very little that is dogmatic, or technical about it. Just that here is a shepherd who loves his sheep. And one of the sheep is doing the most natural thing in the world, eating grass. It did it with such enthusiasm that he didn’t hear when the shepherd called and got separated from the flock.
And why did he get lost? He was lost because he was out of touch with the group that sustained him. The group that fed him and gave him a sense that he mattered. That’s all.
As soon as he was out there alone, he said, “I’m just here by myself. Nothing but me in all of this?
I want to feel like I count.” There’s a certain warmth in that. There’s a certain something that is creative and redemptive about the sense of community.
Thurman speaks of the pain of being separated from our communities:
Insulation takes hold when something inside of me pulls up the drawbridge. I do it because I’m afraid; sometimes I do it because I’m clumsy and awkward, and I don’t quite know how to establish relationships with people I can connect with.
Now, Jesus says that God is like the shepherd, seeking always to find those who are out of community, and when they have found their community, then all the world seems to fit back into place, and life takes on a new meaning.
The lost sheep, his cry of anguish, and the sound the shepherd heard and went to find. That's how God is.
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