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I once interviewed a guy for a job.

It was a job working with teenagers. If he got the job he would be responsible for organising a few youth groups, hanging out at a skate park across the road, taking coach-loads of hormonal time-bombs on camps and generally being the “go-to-guy” for young people in the area.

The interview was going pretty well. He seemed a nice guy and had answered the first barage of questions well. Then came the more tricky section: “Tell us about a time when you failed at something and what you did to fix the situation, or what it was that you learnt from that failure”.

“Well”, he said. “I guess you could say that the time I lost a load of kids in a really rough area of Birmingham a failure”

“I GUESS?”

As the story went on it sounded like it was not entirely his fault, and to be fair to the guy, he had acted pretty well. On realising that he had lost a few of his crew, he quickly made sure that the others were safe, home and accounted for and then started to call the police and other responsible adults to ask for help in rounding up the stray youf.

Jesus told a story one time which coloured in some of the details of what God is really like. A few of the people listening to him and especially the ones who normally hung around in churches had misunderstood some important details about the deity.

“A Farmer”, started the story “was once walking home with his 100 sheep. Just as he begun to turn the last corner in the road he thought he should count them and make sure he had not lost many. Knowing he had started with a hundred, if everything had gone to plan he would still have a nice round number. After several recounts (and anyone who has ever tried counting sleep knows it is not easy..you are prone to falling asleep at any moment for one thing) the framer realised he was one down. Only 99 sheep remained.”

Up until this point there is nothing too shocking about the story. A loss of only 1% is not too bad, and his original audience, many of whom had lost the odd sheep in their time, would have surmised that though perhaps a little careless, the collateral damage was minimal, understandable and not something to worry about too much.

Accidents happen.

Then the story takes a turn for the bizarre.

The farmer suddenly drops everything, turns his back on the 99 safe sheep and legs it out into the falling dusk of the countryside. He calls out to the lost sheep, he listens silently for a distant bleet and wades blindly through thickets and streams desperately looking for the poor helpless little lamb. The other 99 are left to fend for themselves.

This, explains Jesus, is how we are to understand God.

You ever felt lost in life? You ever thought that things were moving quicker than you were? You ever been consumed by grief or bowled over by failure or doubt? You ever looked at the stars and whispered a secret prayer to a God you don’t really think is there?

Well. He is there. Or at least he is kind of there.

More accurately, he is probably currently out looking for you, consumed with the idea of being reunited with you.

Not a church person? That’s ok…neither is the farmer in many ways. He is incredibly quick to leave the security of the farm and come get you.

It’s almost reckless isn’t it? Health and Safety types would surely be pointing out that he neglected his duty of care to the other 99 sheep. Economists would surely point out that actually a 99% return rate is still to be commended…it would certainly be a high pass rate in an exam.

If you were a lost sheep though, none of those things would matter. What would matter is that the farmer cared about you enough to come and get you.