I memorized Psalm 23 in Vacation Bible School when I was seven. In the King James Version, of course–that’s all we knew. I earned a plaque of the psalm, but the gift I appreciated the most at the time was a Barbie doll! In high school, our choir learned an anthem called The New 23rd. It was based on the Living Bible version, and it’s beautiful. So is the classic Scottish hymn I discovered later.
My point? I’ve known this beautiful psalm most of my life–almost too well.
Psalm 23 was paired with Luke 15:3-7 in a reading this morning, and I almost opted for another passage because of their familiarity.
I’m glad I didn’t. The two passages stewed in my heart along with yesterday’s sermon.
I don’t know if I’m sheep number twelve, or number ninety-nine. But in the story in Luke reference is made to The Ninety and Nine, I’ve called the syndrome I suffer from “the 99th Sheep Syndrome.”
A not-too-recent Sunday sermon was a rousing reminder of our primary mission as Christians: seeking the lost sheep, aka number one hundred. The pastor admitted that the destiny of those who don’t know Christ is a hard truth to swallow, and he even reminded us of ways we cope with the truth that those without Christ will be separated from God eternally, in hell: we ignore the truth, we try to rewrite it, we believe it but do nothing–or we do something about it.
I wander between the do-nothing believers and the doers. I think part of the problem is the fact that I sometimes suffer from 99th Sheep Syndrome! Much of the herd is right there with me, scampering and bleating around the shepherd’s feet. “Baa! Baa! Look at me! Feed me! Listen to me! Hold me!”
Maybe we 99 Sheep Syndrome sufferers forget that we’re supposedly seasoned, mature believers. We like to ride on the shepherd’s shoulders and be coddled and celebrated. (Here’s where the sheep analogy breaks down a bit. Hopefully, we’re not quite as dumb as sheep are reputed to be.) The reality is, though, that we really (should?!) know how to feed and care for ourselves. We shouldn’t require the constant care of our leaders and our Shepherd. We have work to do.
The wonderful news is this: because of Who our Shepherd is, He doesn’t need to look at us, attend to us, or know us more. He already knows us fully, inside and out. Attending to the 100th sheep doesn’t diminish His attention to us one iota! He never fails to provide banquets, streams, fresh green grass, and healing oil.
Assured of his completely adequate protection, we can stop our bleating and look at Him, attend to Him, and learn to know Him more!
He’s chosen us to help search for the lost sheep! When we do bleat, may it be, “Baa! Use me!”
Preaching to myself today!