Being a sheep farmer has meant, for more times than I care to remember, doing a straggler muster.
A straggler muster is the muster where you must set out and try to find the sheep that you have missed while doing your main muster.
Now, if you have big rough paddocks straggler, mustering can be very frustrating and time consuming.
In fact there have been many times when mustering in such country that I have begun to wonder if the sheep missing are actually worth the effort, especially when they bolt down over the side of a rough hill with your dog about 200 yards behind them going like the clappers while you are trying to call him behind.
You might not care if the sheep get away but you definitely want your dog back.
After all, as we all know, they are a man’s best friend.
The book of Luke in the Bible has a great parable in chapter 15 known as the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
In this parable we read of a shepherd who has a mob of 100 sheep. The shepherd has safely mustered 99 of the sheep into the “open country” where he can watch over them during the night and protect them from thieves and predators.
However, one sheep is missing. So off the shepherd goes on his straggler muster, searching high and low, until he finds the sheep that was lost.
Upon finding the lost sheep he “joyfully” puts it on his shoulders and carries it back to the mob that is safe in the open country. As a sheep farmer I do find this idea of “joyfully” carrying the sheep back a bit hard to take.
I have carried many sheep on my shoulders over the years and I and others who have done this will tell you there is very little joy in it, especially as one of the first things they can do is urinate down your back.
Yet here in this picture we find a compelling illustration of God’s concern for his “lost sheep”.
We must know no matter how far we wander that we have Jesus out searching for us as the good shepherd.
If you believe you have wandered too far away from God to ever return again, then this parable is speaking to you.
What we know is that Jesus will not tire of searching and retrieving his stragglers, and once found he will joyfully bear their weight upon his shoulders and carry them home.
Hughie McCowen, Christ Church Anglican, Tenterfield