“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? .” Luke 15:4
Dear Redeemer Family:
Although autumn starts with a bang, the pews are often fuller. The singing is more robust. Faith formation programs are up and running. Fatigue likely sets in between September and October. Once refreshed by summer, the intensity of fall settles in and it can seem overwhelming. It’s not just what’s happening at church; it’s also what’s happening everywhere else. Practices, meetings, and work and family commitments crowd in around people, causing weariness. If you listen long enough, is it possible to hear this in the worshiping assembly as the robust singing in September becomes softer, more subdued, in October?
Do the disciples in Luke’s gospel experience a similar fatigue? You can’t necessarily hear it in the disciples’ voices; in several of the gospel readings for this season, the voices of Jesus’ disciples are almost entirely silent. Are they out of breath? In one instance in which we hear a brief word from the disciples, their engagement with Jesus sounds frazzled, fatigues. And if they are fatigues, then no doubt they are also anxious and afraid. As the gospel readings reveal, discipleship is a contact sport; with Jesus and with the world, all the while in the presence of the promised Spirit and it’s not an easy one at that. The promise that energizes discipleship is not its ease. Yet, in all things, Jesus never leaves them. Following Jesus is often difficult because of where Jesus leads, or what Jesus asks the disciples to do, or because the picture the disciples had of what was supposed to happen is not the way things are unfolding, or because they are just plain out of breath. Yet in this struggle the disciples are not abandoned. Jesus is with them. Jesus is with us.
The promise that Jesus never leaves us can seem to grow faint against the experience of life; God’s presence is difficult to discern. Apart from the word preached and sacraments administered, where Christ comes to us in a way that we can see, hear, take hold of and taste, there are only glimpses. When those glimpses fade, fatigue can take its place.
Jesus comes and finds us. The pictures Luke paints of a shepherd searching for one sheep and of a woman searching for one lost coin seem ludicrous. Yet, to Jesus, everyone is important, everyone is worthy. The Pharisees and scribes don’t understand this wide welcome. Their measure is the law. Jesus’ measure is mercy.