Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them.
Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture
and search for the lost one until he finds it?
This Sunday, was my first Sunday morning as both a pastor and also what you could legitimately call a hobby farmer. We’ve had chickens out on our Luna Acres since March, but last week pasture pigs and livestock guardian dogs moved in, and it feels like we’ve upped our farming game. It’s not just backyard chickens anymore – we’ve got livestock.
I have a Sunday morning routine that helps me prepare to lead worship each week. While I am a pretty flexible person when it comes to schedules the other 6 and a half days a week – I really don’t like things shifting around on Sunday morning. So, I was already a little anxious this week about how added farm chores would fit into the mix.
One of the girls had some friends over for a sleepover and Brynn was super excited
to show them how to collect eggs in the chicken coop, so she opened up the coop a little wider than normal to go in for her morning check, and the chickens escaped out into our backyard. We used to free range the chickens more, but lost a few to area predators, so now keep them in the coop or their covered run until the evenings when we can be home and out with them. The livestock guardian pups will eventually allow us to free range them again, but until they are older, wiser and a little more mature, they could just as easily become a predator as the local raccoon, fox, or coyote. So, chickens out of the coop, was not a good thing. Chickens out of the coop in the middle of my Sunday morning routine, was not a good thing at all.
Chasing chickens is not for the faint of heart. They are fast, know how to zig and zag just right, and have a way of slipping right through your fingers right when you think you have them. So we went to work, trying to round everyone up and get them back to safety. We are actually getting better at this than we used to be and within about 10 minutes we were down to just one chicken out and on the run.
I thought I had the chicken cornered on more than one occasion, but each time she would find a way to slip through my grasp (or our electric net fence!) and escape. She finally sought shelter under the grove of cedar trees in the middle of our pig paddock and no matter how we surrounded her, or tried to move her in the direction we needed her to go, she would turn and head off back in the wrong direction.
I looked at my watch and we were quickly approaching the time of no return – the time I had set in my head that I had to be done with farm chores and inside cleaning up to get to church on time to lead worship. In frustration, I yelled out to everyone working to chase the chicken, “She’s got two more minutes and then I am leaving her!”
Just as those words were coming out of my mouth, the image of Jesus carrying a single sheep on his shoulder popped into my mind. “Suppose someone had 100 sheep and lost one of them…” “Ugh, I can’t leave the chicken”, I thought, “Jesus wouldn’t leave the chicken. I have to catch the chicken.”
It was then that I began to notice something. When the chicken was left to her own devices, when we took a break of trying to get to her, she would innately start to return to the coop. She would turn and head in the direction of her flock. Each time, a dog would walk by her or a child in her vicinity would move and scare her back into the woods, but then she would try to make her way forward again. She would start to head back to her flock, back to the coop, back to her home.
I yelled for everyone to freeze, for two of the girls to grab hold of the dogs and to just wait a minute, and sure enough, the chicken waddled her way out of the woods and right to the door of the run – I opened it up and she hopped right in to join her flock.
As that scene unfolded, it brought home a truth from this parable of Jesus about the one sheep who has lost its way. We are not meant to be alone. We are not meant to live in isolation. We are not whole, not complete, if we live this life outside of meaningful relationships. We were created for relationship – relationship with God and with one another – and when those things are lacking in our life, or strained, or broken – we yearn for them – we are not okay without them.
We need community, we need a place to belong, as our real and authentic selves. All of our chickens are different colors, shapes, and sizes – they have different personalities, different voices – yet they are all clearly part of the flock. They all belong one to another.
At Heritage, that’s the kind of community we are, the kind of community we are growing in this place. A place where people can come in all their beautiful, funky, unique, messy, wonderfulness and belong. A place where you can find a flock to come home to.
Join us for worship and check it out for yourself.
Or send me a message so we can connect over a cup of coffee to talk life and community – that is one of my favorite things to do.
August 26th – Summer Morning Worship – 9:30am
September 2nd – Summer Morning Worship – 9:30am
September 9th – Morning Worship – 10:30am
September 16th and on – Morning Worship 10:30am and Evening Worship 5:00pm
September 16th we launch our new service, The Harvest Table.