Monday, January 13, 2014

The 99 and the Lost Shepherd: A Modern Parable

....or maybe postmodern, I really don't know ....

Once open a time, there was a faithful shepherd who lived in a place called Churchville. The Shepherd’s job was to keep watch over one hundred sheep, making sure they had good pastures, clean water and protection from wild predators. He made very little money, but it really did not matter to him, for he lived simply and he truly loved the sheep. The truth is, he would have cared for them for free, such was his love for the flock.

Every night as the shepherd led the flock into the church-pen (there were several church-pens in Churchville) for their protection as they slept, he carefully counted them to make sure that all one hundred were there and none were missing. One night, he counted only ninety and nine. One was missing!

What was the shepherd to do? He didn't want to leave the 99 sheep alone and unprotected, but he worried about the missing one. What if it was in danger? What if it were stuck in a fence, or hanging over a cliff? He spent a terrible night of anxiety.  However rationality and the weight of numbers told him that it was smarter to protect the 99 than it was to put them at risk by leaving to go look for just one lost sheep that had foolishly wandered off.

 The next day, as he led the flock out to graze on the hill sides, he strained his eyes in every direction, looking for the lost sheep, but to no avail. That night, there were still only 99 sheep and he tossed and turned, fighting growling and biting zombie sheep in his nightmares as he searched for the one lost and helpless sheep.

The third night, he could stand it no longer, and after he got the righteous sheep settled for the night, he left and went looking for the lost sheep by the light of the full moon. He remembered an area with underground caverns with many holes and pits that opened up into the caverns called the ‘reelworld.’ As he neared the reelworld, he began to hear the bleating of the lost sheep calling for help. Just as he was about to lower himself down into the pit to go to its rescue, he was attacked by a half dozen of the strongest righteous sheep who had followed him curiously from the sheep pen. “Shepherd! What are you doing? Are you crazy? You cannot go down there, you might get hurt or worse, and we would be left helpless, with no one to feed us and protect us! For you own good, we must take you home.”

So they pulled a bag over his head and tied his hands and dragged him back to the church-pen.

For several days he tried to forget about the lost sheep. He understood the 99’s reasons for fearing the reelworld and for not wanting to risk losing their shepherd. Nevertheless, only with great difficulty was he able to put the lost sheep out of his mind. Finally, he could stand it no longer and decided that, if he was to be worth his salt, he had to try once again to save the lost sheep, if indeed it was still alive. So, again, but this time more quietly and stealthily, he slipped out of the church-pen and went off to find the lost sheep in the reelworld.

This time, he arrived alone at the same location and managed to climb down into the pit of the reelworld where he found the lost sheep, emaciated, dirty and unwashed, but miraculously alive. Rejoicing, he was able to free the sheep, feed it emergency rations that he had brought with him, and climbed out of the pit and set off with the lost sheep over his shoulders back to the church-pen in Churchville.

As the sun was rising, he arrived at the entrance to the church-pen. The way was blocked by some angry looking sheep. “Shepherd! Where have you been? You gave us such a scare!”

“Yes but look,” cried the shepherd, “I have found your sister, the precious lost sheep, and I have brought her home! All the angels in heaven are rejoicing over this one lost sheep that was lost but now is found!”

The angry sheep looked warily at the lost sheep, disheveled and torn, emaciated with matted hair, and they wrinkled their noses in disgust. “She stinks! Who knows what nasty things she has done in the reelworld? She looks like she has parasites! She probably even has STDs! She cannot come in to our church-pen”, she will make us ritually impure!”

The Shepherd looked at them in shock, his mouth dropping open in stunned disbelief.

The 99 sheep rushed the shepherd and tore the lost sheep out of his hands, and drove her away with many harsh blows and nasty words. The lost sheep ran weeping, now more miserable than ever. The shepherd was absolutely broken-hearted. His soul was ripped in half and his whole carefully constructed theological worldview was crashing down around him.

When the 99 sheep returned, they decided to have a serious talk with the shepherd. They exhorted and counseled him, they prophesied to him, they read to him from scripture. They even laid hands upon him and some prayed in tongues over him. One or two sheep even rebuked the devil in him. They decided to pay for him to get counseling and to possibly set him up in a twelve-step accountability program to help cure him of his obsession with lost sheep and the reelworld.

That night, after all had gone to sleep. The shepherd, broken hearted and depressed, managed to slip away one more time. This time as he left, he broke his shepherd’s staff over his knee, and removed his shepherd’s tunic. He renounced his shepherd’s calling and decided to lose himself in the reelworld like the lost sheep that he had formerly sought.

He came to the pit and lowered himself down into the reelworld, where he found there were other lost sheep from other church-pens. He decided to stay with the lost sheep and become one of them, and they welcomed him with open arms and he cared for them in the reelworld, and in return, they lovingly cared for him as well.

Matt 23:13

THE END (for now)


  1. I appreciated your story Joseph. I must admit - I have seen myself (and still do at different times) as playing the part of each of the three characters...the one, the shepherd, and the 99. I am humbled with the realization.

  2. hi Mark. Yes, the beauty of parables is that they speak to us on multiple levels. And yes, me too.

  3. thanks don woolley. Update on this former shepherd, I am now a college professor and enjoying life much more than before!