Based on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, 3-7
[This story is funnier if the narrator can alternate a shepherd’s cap and a sheep hat—or some reasonable facsimile thereof—according to who is speaking.]
Jesus told lots of stories to help us understand God. Three of those stories are about things getting lost and getting found again. There was a story about a lost sheep, a story about a lost coin, and a story about a lost hippopotamus—oh no, that’s not right. What was the third one? A story about a lost boy.
Why would he tell three stories nearly the same? Because they’re about one of the most important things he wanted to teach us. God loves us very, very, much, and wants us to be close to us all the time, so we know we are loved. But Jesus knew that we tend to get away from God—sometimes we wander slowly away and sometimes we run—and we get into trouble. So all these stories tell us that when we go away from God, God comes after us to look for us and find us and give us a big hug.
Here’s the first of those stories. [Put on sheep hat.]
My name is Larry, and I am a sheep. I grew up in a big family. How many people are in your family? I had 99—99 brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins—so we were 100 altogether! And you know the funniest thing: all of the others were black or brown or black and white. But for some reason I was white all over.
They were all very well-behaved. But I found it very difficult to do what I was told. I always seemed to be getting into trouble. And the shepherd who looked after us would just roll his eyes (can you roll your eyes?) at me and say, “Oh Larry, you really are the white sheep of the family, aren’t you?” But he loved me just as much as he loved all the others.
Now, the thing I found most difficult about being a sheep was that we always had to eat—what do you think?—grass! Nothing but grass grass grass all day, every day. Grass sandwiches, grass salad, grass burgers, fried grass, boiled grass, grass ice-cream, grass popsicles, grass with ketchup, grass with mustard, grass with ketchup and mustard mixed together. But it didn’t matter how it was done. I hated grass.
Do you know what my favourite food was—and still is? Pizza. (Do you like pizza?) I specially liked pizza with everything on it. Well, actually there were two things I didn’t like on pizza—grass, and (what would you guess?) lamb. But it was my favourite food that got me into trouble . . .
One day, the shepherd took us to a new field where there was lots of fresh, green grass. “Look at that,” he said, “Isn’t that lovely? You will enjoy this fresh green grass so much.” And everyone nodded and said Baaa baaa. Except me. I shook my head and said Booo booo. And the shepherd looked at me and said, “Oh Larry, What am I going to do with you? Can’t you just try this grass? It’s really good.” And I sighed and said, “OoooKaaaa, I’ll try, just for you.” And I did. But I still didn’t like it.
So when the shepherd wasn’t looking, I tiptoed away (well, since I don’t have toes, I guess tip-hooved away would be more like it). I walked out of the field, all the way down the country road, and into the town, looking for (guess what) a pizza shop. Finally, I found it.
I went straight up to the counter, and said to the man, “Pleeeeese, I would like a large pizza with everything on it—except graaass and laaamb. Oh, and a Coke.” He looked at me rather strangely, but said, “OK, why don’t you sit down, and I’ll bring it in a minute.” So I went and sat down at a table. While I was waiting, I looked around to see who else was there. Do you know what I saw? At every table there were wolves!!! Now everyone knows that wolves like pizza, but there is one thing they like better than pizza, when they can get it, and that is sheeeep or laaaamb. And they were all looking at me and licking their lips. (Can you do that?)
Meanwhile [put on shepherd’s cap], back at the field, it was time for the shepherd to count the sheep and check that they were all there. So he counted, and counted, and got to 99. “Did I count wrong?” So he counted again—still 99. “Who’s missing? (You know who was missing, don’t you?) Larry! I should have known. Where did he go?” And one of the lambs said, “He went thaaaat-a-way,” pointing towards the town. And the shepherd said, “Oh no. If he goes to the town, he’s bound to get into trouble—especially if he goes to the pizza shop!”
So he called to the two oldest sheep: “Hey, Curly and Moe, I’m going to be gone a little while. Can you keep an eye on the sheep and see that no-one else gets lost. I have to go and look for Larry!” And Curly and Moe said, “That’s a baaaad situation. Why don’t you take the traaactor? You’ll be faaaster that way.”
So the shepherd took his special stick, called a crook, jumped on the tractor, and drove as fast as he could to the town—though he was careful not to break any speed limits or go through any red lights. (He was the good shepherd, after all.)
[Put on sheep’s hat.] Meanwhile, back at the pizza shop, things were not looking good for Larry. The wolves had very slowly got up from their tables and come and stood around Larry. “Well, hello, little sheep,” one of them said. “What brings you here?” “I, I, I just thought I’d have some pizza,” said Larry. “Don’t you mean I thought I would BE some pizza?” said another one. “Can you guess what my favourite pizza is, little sheep?” said the first one. “Um, anchovies and olives, maybe?” “Nope, try again.” (Can you guess what their favourite pizza was?) Fortunately for Larry, the wolves enjoyed teasing any sheep they caught, so this conversation went on for some minutes.
Just as they began to think it was time to stop teasing and get down to business, there was the sound of a racing engine outside (brrrm, brrrm, brrrm), the door burst open—and there stood the shepherd [put on shepherd’s hat] with his eyes blazing, and his big crook in his hand.
“What’s going on here?” And the wolves all trembled. “Back off, you wolves. That sheep is MINE!” And they backed away—I was going to say sheepishly, but it was more wolvishly. “Larry,” he said, “Come with me!” And Larry said, “Could I just wait till my pizza’s ready?” and the shepherd said, “Now!” and Larry, with one sad glance at the pizza oven, scuttled across the floor to the shepherd, who put his big strong arm around him. “And you wolves, just stay away from my sheep, or you’ll have me to reckon with!” And the wolves nodded, and shrank away!
The shepherd and Larry went out to the tractor, and the shepherd, who kept his arm around Larry the whole time, drove as fast as he could back to the field (and I won’t say he didn’t break the speed limit just a little bit). He shouted to the 99, “Hey, guys, here’s Larry. Let’s have a party!” And the sheep looked up from their munching, and baaaed joyfully. And they had a party, as only sheep know how to party. And there were grass burgers, and grass salad—well, you know. And somehow, I don’t know how, the shepherd had managed to sneak something very special for Larry—a slice of his favourite pizza.
Messy Church, 2014 & 2017