Written by clergy and lay people across our Diocesan community, ‘Sunday Devotions’ is a column of short reflections based on a Lectionary reading of the day, suitable for small group discussion or personal use.
Main Readings: Exodus 12.1-14; Psalm 149; Romans 13.1-10; Matthew 18.10-20; [Ezekiel 33.7-11; Psalm 119.33-40]
Supplementary Readings: Psalm 74; Matthew 18.1-9; Exodus 13.11-22; Psalm 95; Romans 13.11-14
“If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” (Matthew 18.12)
Flocks are interesting things. When my daughters were toddlers, they would play a lot with their cousins, and as a group, the children would do outrageous things and play hilarious and crazy games that they would never do on their own. My brother and I called it ‘group think’ and we were always extra vigilant when our children were in a flock.
The Church is often referred to as ‘the flock’ and in this week’s Gospel, we see the flock left behind by the shepherd in order that the lost sheep might be rescued. The flock in this story doesn’t engage in outrageous behaviour, but continues to be an ‘obedient flock’ when the shepherd is away, and is ready to welcome their sheep-cousin back into the fold. This is what links ‘The Parable of the Lost Sheep’ story with the instructions in the following verses about how to deal with disputes among believers.
What the flock gets up to when the shepherd is absent demonstrates just how well they have learned the lessons they have been taught. The Church can learn from this by being attentive to how they are behaving towards one another while preparing a welcome for those who enter our community. An obedient flock not only welcomes the lost, but also maintains harmony and a loving, grace-filled attitude towards each other.
While being attentive to our own relationship with the Shepherd, and being ready to welcome the ‘found-ones’ into our midst, let us never forget the important and ongoing work of being a flock which is obedient to the shepherd’s command to love one another unfailingly.