HYMN There were ninety and nine
1 There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold; –
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
2 ‘Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine,
Are they not enough for Thee?’
But the Shepherd made answer: ‘This of Mine
Has wander’d away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.’
3 But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through,
Ere He found His sheep that was lost:
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die.
4 And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There rose a cry to the gate of heaven,
‘Rejoice, I have found My sheep!’
And the angels echoed around the throne,
‘Rejoice! for the Lord brings back His own!’
Elizabeth C Clephane (1830–1869)
READING Matthew 18:10-14
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
SERMON The Lost Sheep
I heard an amusing tale the other day from a Macbraynes’ bus driver. He had been travelling along a highland road when a man stopped him. The man was holding on tight to a sheep. The man asked the driver if he had anything in his boot — NO — and so the man went to the boot of the bus and popped the sheep in. He asked the driver to take them a few miles down the road to the rest of the flock. A crofter caring for his lost sheep. In the Middle East, the shepherd is vital for the very existence of the sheep – for two reasons: the first is protection – you will remember the 23rd Psalm which speaks of THY ROD AND STAFF – the staff is for gathering the sheep but the rod is for beating off any intruders – either of wild animals or thieves. The sheep therefore trust the shepherd and feel secure with him.
The second reason the shepherd is such an important man in the life of the sheep is that he leads them to water and fresh food. Much of Israel is scrub land and desert, and only the shepherd knows where he will be able to get food – maybe roots – for his sheep – and water – he may have to draw it up out of underground streams for them to drink. Without the shepherd the sheep would have no sustenance and would die.
And so our parable of the Lost Sheep. Perhaps it is better translated as the sheep who has strayed. Now, you and I might have all sorts of questions about the 99 other sheep? But Jesus doesn’t concern Himself with such matters here – He is only concerned to show the measure and the depth of the love of God.
I have tried to show you how close is the oriental shepherd to his sheep – he gives them names – he is more than just an owner – he actually CARES about his sheep. And so with God, when he sees one of us wandering away from Him, He loves us so much that He comes looking for us.
The shepherd is not looking for the lost sheep because he is the owner and stands to lose money: he doesn’t look for the sheep so that he can thrash it for wandering away – NO – he goes out with a sad heart for he has lost one which was dear to him – and when he finds that wandering sheep he returns a very happy man.
Here is a picture of God Who loves us and comes looking for us. He is not willing that ANY of us should perish, but longs to find and save us each one.
Now, the one thing we find hard is to believe that God could ever be so loving and caring towards us. Instinctively we think that God is coming after US with His stick – BUT NO – it is the staff that He brings to help us out of the thornbushes which are the tangles of our lives. God is a GOOD SHEPHERD.
He longs to bless us and do good to us. We hide from Him, much as ADAM and Eve hid from Him in the Garden of Eden.
The measure of how keen God is to love us and save us – is the measure of the happiness of that shepherd who looked all night perhaps – and finally finds the sheep which had wandered. Not the big stick for all the wrong we have done but the fatted calf is slaughtered and there is a banquet prepared in our honour. A ring is placed upon our finger – we are marked thus as His Children! And more important than any of these, possibly, is that He throws His arms around us and hugs us. He is not willing that any of us should be lost! Why did Jesus come into the world? The Son of Man came to SAVE WHAT WAS LOST. Jesus purpose in coming was to SEEK, TO FIND AND TO SAVE.
God does love you – no matter who you are – no matter what you’ve done – remember the thief on the cross – TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE. Friends believe that – God’s heart is one of love towards you – he seeks you to love you and lavish His good things upon you – but He needs you to say YES – He cannot and will not force Himself upon you. Hear His gracious call to you and say YES tonight!
Hymn O Happy Day
1 O happy day that fixed my choice
On thee, my Saviour and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
O happy day, O happy day.
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, O happy day
When Jesus washed my sins away.
2 ‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine;
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine
3 Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful centre, rest;
Nor ever from thy Lord depart,
With him of every good possessed.
4 High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear.
Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)