Monday, March 20 Lent Calendar* Invite: Read a parable of Jesus: The Lost Sheep, Matthew 18:10-14. God cares for each of us.
The timing was unfortunate. Our neighbors’ big lovey-dovey dog escaped his own yard at the time when our gate was temporarily open. Oakley bounded into our yard. He was excited to see the chickens out foraging - playmates! They, however, were not excited to see him - big scary monster! Chaos erupted. My son and daughter were trying to get control of frolicking Oakley while also herding all the hens back into the quiet safety of their coop.
I arrived home shortly after things had settled down. Oakley was getting tummy rubs from Jude in the garage as his family was not yet home. Jude gave me the play-by-play. “I think we got all the chickens put away,” Jude said. I went to count the hens in the coop. There were six. There should have been seven. A hen was missing!
What did we do? We did what the good shepherd did in Jesus’ story of the lost sheep. We left the six hens safely behind and went out searching for the lost hen. We combed every corner of our yard, thinking perhaps there was a hen cowered in fear under the shrubs or behind the patio furniture. When she wasn’t found in the yard, we walked up and down the street. We hunted in the back easement between our yard and the neighbors on the back side of us. We posted “Missing Chicken” on Nextdoor. The sun began to set. At dusk, hens typically come home to the safety of their coop. But our little missing hen did not come home that night.
The next morning, someone on Nextdoor posted a photo of a wandering chicken in their neighborhood. It looked like our hen! My whole family was at work or school and could not pursue the lead. But Oakley’s human mama set off to capture the wandering hen. After needed help from others to wrangle said hen, she finally captured her. She sent me a picture of her holding the chicken on her lap in the car. But she also sent me message of concern, “This hen seems smaller than your other hens. I am not sure if she belongs to you.” When I got to her house several hours later, sure enough - that missing hen was not our missing hen! We were pretty sure we were in a sitcom scene. We definitely recognized the comedy in the day.
It has now been almost a week. We still have a lost hen. The timing is ironic as here we are, the fourth Monday of Lent, reading the parable of the lost sheep. It brings the biblical story to life for me in quite a tangible way. I love all our delightful, egg-producing, entertaining hens. But I will leave the ones that are safe and secure behind to search for the one that is missing. I love that we have a God like that. When Jesus tells this parable, it is not really about a lost sheep. Rather, it is about a pursuing God. God seeks out the lost. Mull on that for a while. God seeks out the lost. As you ponder, may it open up a place in you to be more aware of “the lost” come later this week. On Thursday, the Lent calendar invites us to notice those who are lonely and on the margins; they may or may not necessarily be "lost." But they are those who aren’t in our inner circle - or maybe anyone's inner circle. So let’s watch out for each other. Let’s take note. Let's work at inviting everyone into the “reckless love of God.” I invite you to listen to Cory Asbury’s song “Reckless Love” which includes these lines:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
Though some of us may feel lost and some of us may feel found today, it seems to me that we humans all experience times of lostness. So if you feel lost, I pray the reckless love of God finds you. If you feel found, maybe you're supposed to find someone who needs to know of such audacious love.
P.S. My neighbors are amazing and we adore them, including their dog.