Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and rejoices.
Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. ‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father. ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” ‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” ‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’
Luke 15:1-5, 11b-32
‘I once was lost but now I’m found’
This line from the hymn Amazing Grace speaks very clearly of the joy felt when we are loved. I work with children and the story of the lost sheep summons for me images of cotton wool sheep surrounding the shepherd who loves them. The second parable tells a story of sibling rivalry (amongst other things) and reminds us that despite the very best efforts of parents, our children sometimes have to find out the hard way that life brings it’s challenges, both good and bad.
The essence of both stories is the joy that comes from love. I am reminded of the Sunday School song: ‘I’ve got the Joy, joy, joy, down in my heart – glory to his name, praise the Lord’. As we celebrate love this Mothering Sunday and bless those who are ‘mother-like’ let us display the joy we feel today and every day reflecting to others all the love and joy God gives us. What a gift that is!
Loving God, we thank you that in all we do, you are there amongst us, patiently leading and supporting. Let us pause and bless mothers across your world allowing joy and love to be central to all we do. Amen.
Hannah Middleton is the Northern Synod children’s work advisor and a Training for Life and Service student
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