How often do you connect with God? Once a week during the church service, twice a week if you attend the Wednesday night service? Once a day when you read the Bible Lesson? Several times a day if you stop to pray with the daily duties? God is ever present and we can feel connected with Him 'at all times and under all circumstances'. It can be for just a few moments as you are getting ready to leave the house or on your commute. It can be at random moments as you are moved to turn to Him for guidance or direction. It can be whenever you pause for a break or before a meal. Jesus appeared to be aware and tuned in all the time. Sort of like Paul's admonition to 'pray without ceasing'.
I once heard prayer defined in a Christian Science lecture as 'cultivating that state of awareness that acknowledges the allness of God'. That was early in my study of Christian Science and I was just learning a whole new way to pray, so different from the simple multiple repetitions of the prayers I learned as a child. This was a deliberate, open communication with God, my Good Shepherd and I could feel the presence of Love. It was a whole new way to deal with the temptations that crop up all day long, temptations to see and believe in the presence of something other than good. Since God is good and He fills all space, there can't be anything else present or operating but good. Since man is God's image and likeness, he or she cannot reflect anything but what is true of the Original. But what happens if we fall for the lies about His creation? That is sin. What if we are believing someone else is a sinner? How should we treat them?
Jesus often chose to sit down with them, right at the same table, or to ask them to join him where he was sitting with his disciples. Have you ever thought about doing that? Jesus did not worry about what others might think, he just loved everyone he met and he reached out with compassion to those who needed it most. He told those who condemned this behavior, "they that be whole need not a physican, but they that are sick". The Message Bible translates this verse "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick! Go figure out what this Scripture means: "I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders." He recieved them graciously. How gracious are we?
He follows up with a parable about a shepherd and one missing sheep in a flock of 100. Sheep can be a bit silly at times and tend to wander away from the flock if not watched carefully. In a parallel, sinnes sometimes don't even realize that they are losing their way, following a wrong path. Without the Shepherd going out to find themt and bring them safely home they would be lost forever. I used to think it was unfair to leave the 99 'in the wilderness' while he went off to rescue one. But that wilderness was just their ordinary familiar pasture. What I love about this sweet parable is the fact that when the Shepherd finds that sheep he doesn't punish it or drive it home with a stick, he picks it up and carries it on his shoulder. Haven't you done that with a tired child? Haven't you felt that child just relax into your arms, safe in your protection and care? What grace.
There's more! Once he gets back he calls his friends and neighbors to come rejoice with him. He is inviting everyone to see and support the return of the lost one, to welcome them back, to include them, forgive them. More grace.
Take some time today to connect with your Shepherd...and to look around you for any 'lost sheep'. Invite them to your 'table'. Welcome them, even as the Christ loves you, carrying you on His shoulder and rejoicing in you as a member of His flock. Be gracious and feel the gift of grace in return.