Text: Elisabeth Clephane (1830-1869) Tune: Ira Sankey (1840-1908)
1 There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold, but one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold — away on the mountains wild and bare, away from the tender Shepherd's care, away from the tender Shepherd's care.
2 "Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine; are they not enough for thee?" But the Shepherd made answer: "This of mine has wandered away from me, and although the road be rough and steep, I go to the desert to find my sheep, I go to the desert to find my sheep."
3 But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed; nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thro' ere he found his sheep that was lost. Out in the desert he heard its cry — sick and helpless, and ready to die, sick and helpless, and ready to die.
4 "Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way that mark out the mountain's track?" "They were shed for one who had gone astray ere the Shepherd could bring him back." "Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?" "They're pierced tonight by many a thorn, they're pierced tonight by many a thorn."
5 But all thro' the mountains, thunder-riv'n, and up from the rocky steep, there arose a glad cry to the gate of heav'n, "Rejoice! I have found my sheep!" And the angels echoed around the throne, "Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own! Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!"
REFLECTIONS Today’s Scripture lesson from Luke 15 contains two great parables of Jesus--the lost sheep, and the lost coin. It shows us a picture of our Savior that is very different from other gods. Our God goes to every length to find us and save us. We are lost, bleating for fear in some thicket, and the shepherd risks everything, even the lives of his other sheep to find us.
I have heard people say, when talking about worship, that it isn’t about us, it is about God. I agree in one sense. We do come to praise and thank God when we go to church—but the reason we praise him is that the Christian faith is all about us, actually. We have a God who created us for himself, to have company, to love and cherish us. After the fall, all we had was the promise that one would come to save us, and when he did, he came in a form we didn’t recognize. As a simple carpenter! A rabbi without credentials, a miracle man, able to tell stories and interpret the law in ways that confounded the learned. And the stories he told always shocked us. Picturing God as a shepherd that looked for a lost sheep, that "brought back his own." Or a woman searching for a lost coin! Shocking! If God were going to come to earth, we thought, he would come on clouds of might, and make his powers known to us, and we would bow down in worship and awe.
But he came to find us, to bring us life. When he found us and brought us safely home. "And the angels echoed around the throne,/'Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!'"
We mattered to the heavens! The rollicking joy we hear from above because a sinner has come home is also our joy. It is the joy that missionaries especially covet.
I have written about him before, but these two parables today, the lost sheep and coin, remind me of Halvor Rønning, about whom I wrote in my Ascension blog.
THE LOST COIN When he looked up into the starry heavens, He saw the angels rollicking over one Repentant sinner who had been forgiven, Novas exploding with joy. He’d begun Dreaming of China, whose hundred millions called
For him to bring them Jesus, each twinkling star A seraph dancing through the crystal halls Of paradise for one who’d come from afar Into the courts of light. He wanted to add
Thousands, burning lanterns for each new soul.
Rocking back on his heels, his heart was glad,
Rejoicing under the sparkling starlit dome,
Looking east into the end of night Pearling with dawn, more stars hidden by light. Luke 15:8–10; Acts 1:6–8; Acts 26:13–23
...from Jesus the Harmony by Gracia Grindal
HYMN INFO This text, which tells the entire parable, was printed in a Scottish paper that Ira D. Sankey, Dwight Moody’s musician, clipped out one day for later reference. He and Moody were traveling from Edinburg to Glasgow. He read it to Moody who didn't respond. The next day Moody preached on the Good Shepherd and needed a song on that theme. Sankey was a bit flummoxed. He then took out the poem and fashioned a tune for it as he was at the organ. It became a hit. Clephane, born in Scotland, also wrote Beneath the Cross of Jesus. The hymn was published posthumously.
LINKS Gaither Music
Burl Ives https://youtu.be/fh9Sb60tUUw
RMG Productions/including sheep! https://youtu.be/u8oFBWr8OkY
For those planning for Bible study through the year, you might consider the book Jesus the Harmony. It has a poem for every day of the year and Bible references for each poem that put Jesus in what has been called "the red thread of salvation." Many have been using it for daily devotions; others in group Bible studies.