There are three parables presented at the beginning of chapter 15 in Luke’s Gospel. Most often, they’re referred to as the “Lost Parables,” because in each story something or someone is found who had previously been missing. But considering the theological truths that undergird these stories, they should probably be more accurately referred to as the “Finding Parables.” I’m not going to lose any sleep over the fact that’s never going to happen, yet I’m content to categorize them as such.
The good folks who put together the Revised Common Lectionary chose to exclude the third story from this week’s selection, probably because the parable of the Prodigal Son is either so familiar or so important to warrant treatment all on its own.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” –Luke 15:1-10 NRSV
On its surface the story of a shepherd who risks losing 99 sheep just to go looking for one that was lost appears somewhat misguided. If we encountered this story anywhere but in the Bible we’d likely just call the shepherd crazy or inept. Ninety-nine percent represents excellent odds, after all. So why not chalk up that missing one as “collateral damage” and leave it at that?
But no, Jesus didn’t see it that way at all. He lauds the action of the shepherd who goes out–maybe even on a dark and stormy night, for all we know–seeking the lost member of his flock. It’s no coincidence that we Christians have come to view the pastoral function as “shepherding.” Having served a stint as pastor of my own congregation a few years ago I think that’s a fair comparison.
- Gospel Reflection for Sunday, September 15 (msgrmarino.wordpress.com)
- “God Loves Sinners” – 09-15-13 – Proper 19 – Cycle C (scripturecomingalive.com)
- Sermon passage for Sunday, September 15, 2013 – Luke 15:1-10 (kpcistheplacetobe.wordpress.com)
- Rejoice with me (watchingforthemorning.wordpress.com)
- Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C (prepareformass.wordpress.com)
- Luke 15:3-7 (houseofthedread.wordpress.com)
- The Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep (stfrancisfields.com)