I'm a Ninety-Niner

In my Bible reading this morning, I read the parable of the lost sheep from Luke. Whenever I read a parable, I place myself in the story. That’s the way I read fiction – I identify with the characters so strongly that at some level I’m seeing the story through their eyes, smelling the smells they smell, hearing the noises they hear. And parables are, after all, short stories with a message. Jesus told parables to make a point to his audience.

So in the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep. But one sheep gets lost. At times when I’ve read this parable I’ve identified with the lost sheep, the one who is enjoying herself so much as she walks along in the sunshine that she wanders away from the others. She keeps spying a patch of sweet green grass a few feet away and trots over to sample it, or sees a little stream sparkling in the sunlight and goes over to get a cool drink. Before she knows it, she turns around to discover that the rest of the sheep have gone on without her and she’s all alone. But then the shepherd comes and rescues her, and he is sooooo happy to see her, and gives her a ride on his own shoulders. The one sheep is easily distracted and kind of silly and maybe a little stupid, but her shepherd loves her anyway. Yeah, I could so be the one sheep.

This morning, though I was definitely identifying with the ninety-nine others who stuck together. They were enjoying some sweet, delicious grass of their own, and not only that, they were enjoying hanging with their friends. Can’t you just hear Sheep Number Sixty-Three shout across the tops of the others’ heads, “Hey Forty-Seven! Come try one of these little white flowers. They’re delicious!” And Forty-Seven shouts back, “Maybe so, but honey, once I start I can’t stop, and those things will put five pounds on my hips before I know it.” (What? Do you mean everyone doesn’t hear those sheep talking when they read the Parable of the Lost Sheep???)

So then Twenty-Six raises his head and says, “Hey, where’s Hundred?” And everyone starts looking around and saying to each other, “She was here a minute ago. Where could she be? Somebody better go tell Shepherd she’s wandered off again.” Shepherd smiles and says, “I’ll go find her. Y’all stay here.”

At first, I was tempted to be a little upset as I watched his retreating back disappear over the hillside. I mean, here I was, one of the Ninety-Nine, and I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, but Shepherd left me to go look for that ditsy, scatterbrained Hundred. But then I looked around and realized I had nothing to be upset about. I was in beautiful open country. There was a babbling brook off to my right and the sound of sparkling water rushing over the rocks was like music in the clear air. I was surrounded by delicious and nourishing sweet grass dotted liberally with those wonderful fattening little white flowers. And I wasn’t alone. I had my friends. I realized that Shepherd would never have left me alone. He left me in a wonderful community, where I have friendship and fellowship and safety and food and drink and fun. I was a Ninety-Niner – one of the happy, safe, secure members of his flock.

So you know what I did? I said a little prayer for Shepherd, that the Lord would guide him directly to Hundred so he could bring her back. Then I trotted over to where Sixty-Three was enjoying those white flowers, and grabbed myself a mouthful. Yum!

Okay, so now you know what a truly weird person I am. That’s okay. Just relax and have a flower. They’re really good. (I just got a chocolate-flavored one.)