Start With One

“If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one?” – Matthew 18:12

Jesus tells the Parable of the Lost Sheep to help us understand how precious we are to God: How the Good Shepherd cannot bear to lose even one beloved one to predators, thieves, lousy judgment, a poor sense of direction, or plain bad luck. How, regardless of how many fat and happy sheep are safe in God’s heart, she will not rest until every single dear one is accounted for. How heaven rejoices when the lost one is found.

The parable also speaks to the power of one: How we can save ourselves and change the world by loving each other to the ends of the earth, one person at a time. To mere sheep like us, this approach might seem inefficient. But this is the way of love and hope, relationship and wisdom, and blessed are those who follow it. 

When we focus on the magnitude of suffering and need in the world, we are easily overwhelmed. We are tempted to conclude that there is nothing we can do.

But we can start with one—one person, one problem, one need.

I know it sounds slow and hard. But here’s something I’ve learned from our church’s  provision of sanctuary for a Guatemalan man facing deportation:

When we give of ourselves to serve even one, powerful new communities of love are created. Walls of division and unknowing crumble and fall. What was unimaginable becomes routine. Duty becomes a joy.  Our sense of “church” explodes. The “system” is not changed right away, but we are transformed.

Consider this: Members of 10 churches, one synagogue, and a Quaker meeting provide meals for Lucio Perez. Some 200 people have accompanied him through every hour of every day for almost 11 months. More than 80 drivers bring his wife and children for visits. Hundreds of people have contributed financial support.

All this for one man and his one family. And all of heaven rejoices.


Good Shepherd, may I have your heart for the one. And when I am the one, may I let your love find me.

Stillspeaking Small Group Discussion

About the Author
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.