It’s late spring; you’ve got the cattle all on good, tall, green grass. The rains have been good, the future looks bright.
Monday morning rolls around and its time to put out salt and mineral and see how everybody is doing. So you load up your feed, hook up to the trailer, and saddle up your old standby. (You know that special pony that’s been with you forever. The one you just about shot when he was a colt because he would spook at anything that would move, and now you brag about how anytime you go after a critter you don’t come home without him.)
It’s a nice drive to the pasture, the sun is bright and the air has that clean sweet smell. Like you can almost smell the spring season making the grass grow.
You get to the salt and mineral tubs, fill’em up, check the water and unload old Buck.
And you’re off on a nice quiet ride, on a beautiful day, just to look things over and get a good head count. Yes sir, everybody looks just like they ought to…..95, 96, 97, 98, 99,…...OK. First count is never right anyway,…95, 96, 97, 98, 99…….
You look up to the heavens, sigh and start looking. First you look at tag numbers and …. It’s her. The one who always has her head up when somebody goes by. The one who always gets her head between the wires to get to the ‘greener’ grass.
So then you hopefully look in all the little nooks and crannies thinking she just might still be in the pasture. No such luck. You start riding the fence line and sure as shooting you find the fence broke and tracks going out.
You look up to the sky. The sun is higher now, and it’s warming up nicely. Old Buck and it’s rider start searching.
A lot of riding and two hours later you’ve finally found her. Her head goes up and she literally gallops to the hole in the fence, leaps across and nonchalantly starts eating grass like nothing very important has happened.
As you’re fixing the fence you debate about selling that ol’rip… but doggone it, she’s always got a good calf at her side, she can be a really good producer, so…. She’s good for one more year.
It’s way past noon now. It’s hot. You and ol’ Buck are more than a little tired and yet you’re happy. Happy that you’ve found a lost critter. Happy about deciding to keep the cow. Happy about the fruits of your labor.
By now, you folks, good Lutherans that you are, can see that I have taken the liberty of “westernizing” the text of Luke 15:1-7, the parable of the lost sheep. I haven’t really snuck up on you with any great revelatory facts or, dazzled you with my biblical knowledge.
But I am going to ask you to bear with me for a few moments, use your imagination, and let our faith in Christ take us on a morning ride together.
First, let’s take a good look at that trouble making cow. No matter how tight, how high, how strong, the fence, she always seems to get out. Is the feed any better on the other side? No. In fact it’s more than likely to be better where she was in the first place. It’s also a good bet that she’s in a safer, more productive environment altogether. And yet she still keeps stretching the wires.
Isn’t that what we’re continually doing in our lives as we go on about our daily living. Our loving and caring God has put up a fence, called the Law. He has put up this fence so that we could safely live out our lives in peace and prosperity with Him. This fence of God’s was made for you and me and for keeping us close to Him, but we always seem to be looking for any number of ways to get around it, over it, under it, and through it.
That fence was made for someone else, not for me. I’m not hurting anything or anyone by being just a little bit across the fence. Those other wild ones over there, they’re the ones that really broke the fence. Guess what? Fence jumping is illegal. Whether you’re just across the line or clear over to the over side. That fence was made for everyone, it was made for you, it was made for me, just as it was made for that other feller way over there.
We know this for a fact, ask any of us here today and they can probably tell you all about God’s Law. And yet with all this knowledge we keep on straying over to see what’s on the other side, even when we know, WE KNOW, that it’s not good for us. And that it goes against what the Lord has told us what to do.
So we’ve jumped the fence, against all warnings, and we stray further and further into that so called “greener pasture”. Where life is so much more fun and so much more free. Or that’s what Satan would have you believe. But all of a sudden that green grass turns into a noxious weed and life starts becoming uncontrollable.
The fun of bar hopping every Saturday night has depleted your checking account to where you’re always over drawn and can’t make the rent payment.
The green grass of making more money by staying at work more and more instead of spending time with your family, until you realize the fact that your family has grown up without you and they don’t know you nor you them.
Or the fun of boating, camping, or just being a couch potato on Sunday morning, has kept you from going to Church for Worship, and all of a sudden you’re asking yourself “What’s life really mean anyway?” Nothing seems to matter anymore.
You start looking for the fence line, thinking that you’ll simply head back on your own, but when you turn around all you see is a vast wasteland. You’re lost. Incredibly lost!
You might be lost, but you’re not alone, because when you turn around to come home, there is a rancher just aching to bring you back into the herd. One second He’s way off in the horizon, and in the next second, He’s right alongside of you, gently hazing the lost back across the fence.
It doesn’t matter how far out you were, Jesus the consummate rancher, is always out looking for you.
You see he has paid a price for you. You belong to Him. And He’s not going to let your jumping the fence stop Him from doing everything He can to put you back in the proper pasture.
He has paid a price. It wasn’t at some auction house for some paltry sum of money. But a price, of giving Himself up for horrendous torture and dying upon a cross. A price, that because of His suffering and death, has bought and paid for all of us. By no action of our own, Jesus brought us to Him. We have been given the gift of faith. To believe that He is the Son of God, who gave Himself to die in our stead. Believe that He is truly our Savior.
So this holy rancher has a vested interest in us. He worries about us. He loves us. He loves so much that the Father made a way to make us clean before Him. And that was by letting His Son die for all of our fence breaking. But it doesn’t end there. Because we still can’t seem to stop stretching through and breaking the fence. But know this. Jesus is still with us, still searching for us, still riding the hills to bring us back to where we need to be. And when He finds us, and we cross back over into the real pasture of green grass we’re not considered to be some ‘cull’ to be sorted off because of our transgressions, but rather all the heavens rejoice in our becoming productive in the Family of Christ again.
Imagine when we truly repent, confess our sins, and proclaim our faith as we have done in the beginning of our worship service this morning. Not only do the hosts of the heavens sing out in joyful acclamation, but our Father who is loving and faithful in His promises, forgives our sins and welcomes us back into His herd with a joyful heart. Yes. Our sins are forgiven. They are forgotten. Never to be remembered.
So don’t forget that no matter how far you may have strayed, how much you think you might be lost. There is a shepherd searching for you. A savior who is ready bring you back into the herd. A Savior, who has purchased you with his body and blood and with joy and love that transcends all understanding, welcomes you back into His family. Yes, it’s true. He does love you, he does welcome you. You are his, the fence jumping stray. Amen.