As one who lives with someone who looses things, the parables of the lost sheep/coin drive me batty. My rule-driven nature tells JJ, “if you just hang your keys on the key holder when you come in every day, you’d know exactly where they are.” Alas, people are not inanimate objects and tend to wonder on their own.
But in reading about lost things this morning, I was prompted to ask my friend (who grew up on a sheep farm): can you trust the 99 not to scatter when you go chasing the one? My gut says yes… they’re such followers that the pack will stay together. Even when there are only 4 of them, you only have to wrestle one to lead it to the pen and the rest will follow. These are the lessons 4-H provides.
Back to the 99. The story was in response to Jesus eating will a few individuals of ill repute. The religious folk didn’t take to it well. I think they wanted Jesus to be spending his dinnertimes with them.
When I learned hebrew, the first verb that became a part of our exercises was shamar: to guard. We were always guarding. My teacher had a very integrated approach to learning language, so we even sang songs with shamar in all its forms (along with a killer alphabet song with some yiddish twang. Truly awesome). Who knew there was so much guarding going on, especially in the Hebrew world?
But this parable seems to imply that shamar wasn’t the verb of choice because it was normal in all its forms (which is also true). Maybe humans have a shamar-ish nature. When a sheep goes astray, our reaction seems to be “lock down! Don’t let another one out!”
But Jesus’ prerogative isn’t to guard but to chase. To seek, to find. He instructs us to ask and knock. When talking about the kingdom, there’s a lot of action; finding something and selling everything to buy it. His instructions include keeping when it comes to faith in relation to difficult times, but most everything else about his message is about loosing. Releasing. Or, in the words of David Crowder, “letting go gives a better grip.”