Are You Sitting Comfortably? The Lost Sheep 

When you think about “sitting comfortably” with other people, what sort of people might you have in mind for say, getting close up and sharing a meal with? Friends? Family? The “great and the good”?
Who did Jesus choose to spend time with, and eat with? Jesus was challenged by religious types because he welcomed sinners and ate with them.
On one such occasion, Jesus was speaking to a group including despised tax collectors and other notorious sinners. In the eyes of the Pharisees, this was outrageous and they made their feelings known, as we can see in Doctor Luke’s biography of Jesus which you can read here (Luke chapter 15 verses 1 to 7)
In this account, Jesus gives a picture of sheer rejoicing in heaven when the lost repent and turn back to God!! We all need to repent – to think again about our ways, say sorry for what we have done and turn back to God.
Jesus emphasises the lost sheep. There is a risk for the 99 sheep left in the open country. There is a risk for the church too when we seek the lost – but that’s what Jesus calls us to do.
We’re supposed to follow Jesus, like sheep. We need to repent, as individual sheep. And as his gathered flock? Bottom line – we’re not going to be a nicety-nice church for nicety-nice notional Christians! “Another cucumber sandwich Vicar?” “Bless you dear but first I must repair the barbed wire to keep out the riff-raff!” We need to repent of such an attitude if we have it.
At EBC we think we should take risks for the people who don’t “do church”. It gets messy when we do it – it feels uncomfortable sometimes (individual problems, Storehouse, Messy Church, Night Shelter, the Tuesday Club, Refresh) and we worry about the views of the 99… but AS A CHURCH we’re not called to be safely fencing in the 99 safe sheep, we’re called to seek and save the lost one and, as Jesus did, to welcome them and eat with them.
And individually, first, we’re called to be followers of Jesus - sheep of the Shepherd – ourselves.
Questions to Consider
Who would you love to invite to dinner? Pick anyone, past, present, living or dead…. Who would you LOVE to spend time with?
Thinking about Jesus and his example of reaching out to those whom society at large rejected, how might you try to follow his example? What individual or group could you perhaps reach out to and engage with?
It’s been said (one of my favourite sayings!) that “engagement is not endorsement”. With whom, outside your own safe circle, are you engaging – even if you wouldn’t endorse their lifestyle, choices or behaviours?
Jesus illustrated with the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son, that God is always on the lookout for those who stray from him. Like the lost son (but unlike the sheep or the coin) we as humans can deliberately get ourselves lost – we do so when we turn from God. Is this a time for you to take a check – and repent? To think again, say sorry, and with God’s help change?
How often do you pray for God’s help in keeping you and your family and friends safely in line with God, following Jesus? Or are you expecting to do this in your own strength?
Who else do you, or might you, pray for? Who specifically could you pray for, that they would repent and turn to God?
Is there anyone you could invite to church this Sunday? If so…. will you? 

Simon Lace, 14/08/2018