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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The 100th Sheep

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
3rd Sunday after Trinity 2020
June 28, 2020

Luke 15:4   4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

Have you ever felt like the 100th sheep? That is, have you ever felt like you were out there, in the wilderness, alone, with no one to help you? Have you ever thought, “I’m all by myself. No one cares about me.  No one understands how I feel.” Have you ever felt completely isolated in your suffering?  If so, you are not alone. All of us have felt that way at one time or another.

This is a very perilous area.  All of us, due to pain, loneliness, sickness, or grief, have felt completely cut off from the world.  Perhaps we have thought of ourselves as an island that is isolated and uninhabited, except for us and our misery.  It is common to all, and frankly, is a serious temptation.

Why do we say temptation?  Recalling that “…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”, never forget that Our Adversary Below  is always seeking to hinder us and plague us in any way possible. One of his favorite tactics is isolation.  When we are hurt, discouraged, sick, or grieving, it is an opportune time to launch a spiritual (and usually psychological) attack.  These are the times that Satan uses to his advantage because we are not at our strongest. He tells us we are alone. eHBefore we know it, our mind and spirit are awash in negativity.  It may be overwhelming sadness, or depression, or simply nasty accusatory thoughts.  Satan is not called “the accuser of the brethren” for no reason,
In fact, He (Satan) may dredge up events that happened months, years, or even decades ago in an attempt to wage mental and spiritual warfare against us. He tries to remind us of our failings and our shortcomings to breed bad feelings. Satan likes it when we feel bad.

e reSo it is. It is our common fate for as long as we live on this Earth.  All of us have episodes like this. The stark reality of it is that the more spiritually mature and aware we are, the more intense the attacks are.  Martin Luther suffered terribly from these episodes. All great saints do. They are not pleasant but have the sick stench of Satanic activity about them.

Let us not dwell upon this, because we have the antidote to the Devil and his activity. It is contained in today’s Gospel.  Jesus tells us about the shepherd who has a herd of 100 sheep.  At the end of the day, he counts his flock and finds that one is missing.  Does he just shrug his head and say, “Oh well; ninety-nine is good enough?” No!  He leaves the herd and goes to seek the lost sheep.  He looks until he finds it.  Then, rejoicing, he places it on his shoulders and brings it home. What an image!  That lamb is safe and he is coming back to his flock. It is simply glorious. The Shepherd didn’t leave that sheep to be ravaged by wolves.  He sought him and brought him home.

We hope that you see the parallel here.  All of us, at one time or another, have been the 100th sheep.  Through our own sin, or through the temptation of isolation, we have all been lost in the wilderness. It seems hopeless. Then, in the distance, we hear something.  It is coming closer.  It is the voice of our Great Shepherd, calling us.   He has been looking for us.  All we must do is hear that call and follow it.  If we do, He will meet us and take us home.

Jesus is the answer to our isolation. He is our eternal Companion.  Never, despite what the Satanic voices say, are we ever alone.  How can we say this? Here’s why. Our worldview is this: we have a loving God and Creator, who made all things and loves all things to an infinite degree.  This being has expressed himself to us as a tripartite Person consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. His son, Jesus Christ, loves you personally and completely. It’s been said that if Jesus had to die to just save you, one person, He would have done it.  Such is His care for you.  e He

This underscores an important point.  That point is, that no matter how grievous Evil is in this world, and despite the titanic amount of suffering it causes, it is in no way as powerful as Good. The Universe in general and the Earth in particular, are both inherently good, because they were made by God.
How do we react when the sense of isolation or negativity absorbs us? What power do we  Christians have at our fingertips? We have the greatest power imaginable, the Name of Jesus.  When a Christian prayerfully invokes the name of Jesus with unshakeable faith, miraculous things happen. The sick are cured, the lame walk, the blind see, and the satanic forces are dispelled.  At the name of Jesus, they recoil in fear and loathing. They quit the battlefield, defeated and dispirited.  The satanic forces hate to admit it, but they know they have lost the war.  Deep in their devilish beings, they know they must lose. As Martin Luther once wrote about Satan, “for lo! His doom is sure. One little word shall fell him…”

That word is Jesus.  It is the Word to whom we Christians owe eternal thanks and praise. Why? Certainly for our salvation, but also for the help we receive here and now.  In Christ, we are more than conquerors. We can resist and defeat the spiritual foes that afflict us. 

As the great Irish hymn, “The King of love my shepherd is” says,  “Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,  But yet in love He sought me, And on his shoulder gently laid, And home rejoicing, brought me.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, AMEN.

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