I saw something last weekend I’d never seen before. My daughter, Dori, is a soccer player. We occasionally travel for soccer tournaments and we ended up in a tournament in Lilburn. The fields at this park backed up to a hill covered in various vines and they had either rented or borrowed goats and sheep to eat away at the vines. I knew that you could rent goats for this purpose but had never seen it in action and wasn’t expecting it at the soccer field. It was quite the attraction for the girls who had traveled to Lilburn for the tournament.

As I stood at the fence and looked at the sheep, I kept thinking of the parable of the lost sheep.

Luke 15:1-7 (NRSV)

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around 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 goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Usually I focus on the “rejoicing” that happens in this story. I like the idea of Jesus throwing a party every time I repent. But when I saw the work that the sheep were doing and the value that they added as they naturally landscaped the area, I realized that when the party is over we still have work to do. After we repent, we need to get to work building the kingdom so that more people can be part of the party. 

The beauty of this type of work is that it is fulfilling. It is life changing to be a part of something that sows the seeds of righteousness, peace, and joy. The work is worth it because at one point the work was for us to be found and now it is time to share the gift of salvation with others.

I hope that you find ways to radically love your neighbor this week. Let someone know that they matter and that they are valued enough to throw a party in heaven.