A member of the congregation I serve (I'll call him "M") was hospitalized a few weeks ago and was in the hospital, indeed, for a few weeks. This afternoon I went to visit him and he was gone, had been discharged. Normally, that would be cause for a prayer of thanksgiving. But this is not a "normal" situation. M is one of a small handful of our members who is homeless. I couldn't imagine that they would simply discharge him to the street so I assumed that he was in a facility someplace. Given privacy rules, I figured that he was lost to us until he could find a way to contact me.
Thank you God for hospital staff members who were compassionate (or, alternatively, uncaring or ignorant) and gave me discharge information for M -- in a round-a-bout way M ended up at another hospital. This raised many questions and wonderings in my mind. Fortunately, the other hospital wasn't awfully far away. I traveled a bit and found M, blessed him, and prayed with him. His discharge planner stopped in while I was there -- thank you again God!
Once lost and now found. While I had other important calls and visits to make today, I could see that M was to be the focus of my shepherding this afternoon. Those others whom I had planned on visiting had others around them who cared for them. M was alone. Not surprisingly, the parable that occurred to me was the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). Several years ago, a friend, colleague, and seminary professor told me that she met a pastor once who termed that parable the Parable of the Incomplete Flock. Lost, then found, because someone searched. And the flock was complete again. Holy Ground.
But, of course, the flock is never really complete.