By Father Casey Shobe
It takes a lifetime, longer even, to figure out how to live as a disciple. Each day presents new challenges and questions of what it means to live faithfully. That’s a big part of what holds me on the Christian way, because I feel like Jesus is still working on me, and I know I still haven’t grasped the fullness of life in the Kingdom of God.
But as big and broad as discipleship is, and as hard as it can be for us to describe for others, Jesus has an amazing knack for boiling it all down to its essence through parables. In just a few words, Jesus takes the hugeness of the Kingdom and the diverse complexity of faithful life, and captures it all in a few words. This weekend we’ll get two of my favorites.
“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…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.’ (Luke 15:1-10)?”
We preachers use a lot of words to try and say the same thing (too many, I am often helpfully reminded), but this is what it’s all about, my friends. No matter how lost we get, no matter how far we may wander off, Jesus is ready to seek us out and bring us home. That is fundamentally what we believe as Christians. God stops at nothing to find us and draw us back to where we are meant to be. No matter where you’ve been, or how hard life may be right now, you are destined to be gathered up by the one who left the glories of heaven to rescue every last one of us. This is the gospel.
But the divine genius of Jesus’ parables is that they are about us, too. Which means that the act of seeking others out and bringing them to peace and safety is the work of every one who follows Jesus. It is who God is, and who we are meant to be, too. It is our calling and our joy.
In my sermon last weekend, I invited you to do something hard every day, something you know you should do, but haven’t wanted to do. I hope you accepted that challenge, and I would love to hear about what sorts of things it’s led you to do. I want to add a layer to that challenge with this weekend’s gospel text. Be on the lookout for a lost sheep or two. Someone who is struggling or lonely, grieving or desperate. Someone who needs a reminder that they matter, that someone out in this great big world cares about them. There is a loneliness epidemic of astounding proportions in our society today. Isolation compounded with despair simply becomes unbearable for tens of thousands, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in our country. Yes, there are so many lost sheep and coins out there. And as followers of the shepherd, we have a calling to help them find their way back to life and peace. So, say a prayer, muster your courage and compassion, and follow the shepherd out into the wilderness.
About Father Casey
Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.