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The Lost Sheep - Losing and Finding Wellington

Have you noticed that in movies every room anywhere in Paris has a view of the Eiffel tower. Now actually my old office really did, although to be fair you did have to perch in one corner on one leg and crane your neck but you could just see the top of it. More than ten years ago I was there one morning not squinting at the tower, but hard at work on obviously, important matters when the telephone rang and unusually it was Frances on the other end. She was so upset that at first it was really quite hard to hear what she was saying and I began to imagine all manner of terrible things, finally though I understood that she was telling me that she had lost the dog. Not misplaced him, you understand but lost him. Now this was Fidget’s predecessor and he was a well behaved chap but on this occasion Frances had taken him with the children, all four, to the Forest of Rambouillet in the countryside some miles from where we lived. Anyway he had caught a scent and had rushed over the horizon in search of the rabbit/deer/wild boar whatever the animal in question and hadn‘t been seen since. Frances had been looking in vain for almost two hours and was really worried about both the dog and the increasingly fractious babies in the car - William would have been very young and she was on the point of giving up

What to do, well I made my excuses and set off leaving the centre of Paris behind me speeding through the traffic to the forest to look for Wellington. I should quickly point out that he was an English dog. The forest was very large and really does have wild boar (and probably Heffalump traps too) so I was worried about how I would ever find him.  By the time I arrived, it was well after lunchtime. I began exploring the area whistling, calling out “Wellington” at the top of my voice (not advisable in the land of the French!) but it seemed the only thing to do.

Our first parable this morning about the lost sheep would have struck a chord with Jesus’ farming audience and while it appears in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel Luke, with his overriding concern for the weak, rejected and the outcasts links it to Jesus spending time with sinners. “This fellow welcomes simmers and eats with them,” said the Pharisees. You see what they, the Pharisees, did not understand was that we are ALL God’s sheep. We are all created by God in his likeness to be part of his flock and whenever we turn from the right and true path there is an incompleteness in heaven there is something missing. We are not rejected, not forgotten nor cast out rather our place is always there and kept ready for us. God, Father Son and Holy Spirit though is not content simply to sit quietly waiting for us to return to Him but He comes to find us. Most notably of course we see this in the sending of his son, in Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death on the cross and resurrection and the promise of today the amazing truth is that Jesus will meet us where we are - as in the parable and shown by his ministry on earth he actively seeks his missing sheep.

So there I was, having left the office behind in the city feeling anxious upset and incomplete, Wellington after all was one of our family and he was missing - and then far off down a wide grassy ride I caught sight of him, running towards us black and white, his ears lolloping, tail wagging and we were - absolutely thrilled. Everything was alright again and in moments he was jumping up to be patted and stroked and very soon he was safely back in the car.

Even if that day we experienced only a little of what it might be like to lose and find a sheep the magnitude of God’s generosity and love is simply beyond our understanding. I think we need to hold both ideas in our mind - the sadness of the incomplete flock and the joy of the recovery. The depth of these are beyond our imagining but we do know this, when we are baptised into the church we are welcomed into a fellowship with Christ that is life-long, that God promises to be with us, in joy and in sorrow, to be our guide in life and to bring us safely to heaven.

Amen

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