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Posts tagged ‘shepherds’

Shepherd/Flock/Shepherding

“The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.”  Psalm 23:1 (CEB)

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  John 10:11 (CEB)

Shepherds aren’t a common sight today, at least in most places.  In Jesus’ day, they were often seen on hillsides with their flocks.  There are two sides to being a shepherd in that day.  One is that the “good shepherd” was someone who loved the flock, took care of them, protected them, guided them, and was loyal and faithful.

On the other hand, there were those shepherd who were hired to take care of the flock, and they really didn’t have any commitment or loyalty to the flock or the owner of the sheep.  Perhaps they were the ones who gave shepherds a bad name because apparently there were some who stole from the town merchants on those occasions where they were seen in the villages.

I suspect that all shepherds had hygiene issues since they were pretty much with their flocks morning, noon, and night.  In that case, they might not have been particularly welcome in close quarters!  Jesus’ image of the Good Shepherd echoes the assurances of the Psalmist that the shepherd is with the flock through “thick and thin” and will not abandon the flock.

The Good Shepherd is one who will even die for the flock.  When we think of this image, the Good Friday and Easter messages connect.  Jesus is the one who died for us and was raised from the dead so that we might have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.  This is God’s gift to us.

So does that mean we are the flock?  I guess so.  I don’t know a lot about sheep, but I’m not sure I really like being compared to sheep.  From what I understand, they will follow anyone; they stray easily; they can be so busy eating grass that they don’t realize they have wandered away from the rest of the flock; they are too quickly led astray.  Oh – wait – maybe we as human beings are a little like that!

Maybe that’s why it’s so important to be connected to a community of faith.  We shepherd each other even as we invite others to be part of the flock.  We are shepherded by the Good Shepherd and we in turn care for and guide each other.  So many people scoff at the church folks and say it’s outdated, but I wonder if they ever really became involved in a caring and supportive church community.

Oh, I know that we humans are so VERY human!  We make mistakes, say the wrong things, don’t listen very well at times, and do a lot of things that are particularly reflective of being a follower of Jesus.  Yet, as a community, we can set an example for forgiveness and acceptance; we can work through problems and move forward.  What a great witness to the world!

Recently I needed to fly to my home state of Iowa where my 91 year old father was moving to senior apartments after having fallen in his home three times.  He realized that he needed a safer place with more people around.  In spite of his physical challenges, he is totally with it, and a very intelligent man.  I had just been out there only a month and a half earlier, but I felt that I needed to be there to help my siblings clean out the house and assist him in settling in.

On the Sunday before I left, one of the churches I serve surprised me with a collection to help offset my plane fare.  Their love and support touched me so deeply, and it paid for over half the cost of my ticket.  They, to me, represent what community – being part of the flock – is all about.  This isn’t a one time event, I have seen them collect food for the hungry, money for the United Methodist “No More Malaria” campaign, send a child to church summer camp, over load a tree full of gifts for needy families, collect shoes for the homeless, donate gift cards to someone in the church who lost their job, and so many other “faith in action” things.  Prayer empowers them to be the shepherds in Jesus’ name.

This is a church that has gone through some rough times and has come out on the other side to serve God by providing a place to grow in faith, remain accountable, and support each other through thick and thin.  Thanks be to God!

How can we all find ways to be shepherds for Christ?

What would we have to change or give up  to be Christ’s shepherd?

How can we improve on what we are doing now?

The Lord is our shepherd!  Hallelujah!

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Good Shepherds

“[The Good Shepherd] calls his sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”  John 10:3b-4

This Sunday is called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” which contains the traditional lectionary scriptures from Psalm 23 and John 10:1-10.  In the United States, we aren’t terribly familiar with shepherds, particularly not the ones that would have been around during Biblical times.  The early ancestors of the faith were shepherds:  Abraham, Moses, David, and others, and their profession was seen as honorable and productive.  There was respect for the wandering nomads who cared for sheep and goats, and other livestock.

By the time of Jesus, shepherds had a rather stained reputation.  Many were isolated, had few (if any) social skills, were known to steal when they did darken the city gates, and they were a pretty tough bunch.  Most of them were hired by wealthier land owners who preferred to have someone else do the sheep herding, and the work of tending a flock wasn’t easy.  The Good Shepherds were the ones who really watched the flock and would find fresh places for them to graze, went out to find strays, and then herded them into some kind of protective area where they would be safe for the night.  The good shepherd would lie down across the entrance as if he was the gate, so if a sheep wandered that direction he could stop it or if some animal or poacher tried to get in, the shepherd would be right there to protect the sheep.  The shepherd was even willing to give his life to save the sheep.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd laid down his life for us, to save us from our sins, to give us reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation through his death and resurrection.  He calls us to follow him, and he knows us by name and loves us enough to die for us.  I know for some folks, that is a hard concept.  There are many who just can’t believe such a thing happened.  I like to think we can find modern parables that help us understand the love of God in Christ.

Parenthood is one of the ways we can learn more about God’s love.  This Sunday is also Mother’s Day, and it is through the example and lives of GOOD mothers that we have a powerful witness to the love of God.  While there are mother’s who aren’t very good to their children, I suspect the majority are.  I don’t have biological children of my own, but I have step-children who are good parents, and I see their dedication and love for their kids.  My sister and sisters-in-law teach me about love for child and how they would do anything to protect and care for their children.

My own mother is probably the best example I have.  Besides my dad, we were the most important people in her life.  She sacrificed without complaint if it was for her children.  She often said that she would go hungry if it meant that her children could have a meal, and she did often go hungry.  She was fiercely protective, although she was also strict with us and didn’t allow us to stray too far before herding us back into the fold.

God’s love for us is like the power of a good mother’s love for her children.  There is an old saying – I don’t know the source – but it says, “God couldn’t be everywhere, and that’s why we have mothers.”  The love of God as our heavenly parent is recreated through the love of our parents who are our earthly shepherds.  I’m thankful to God for the gift of my parents and all who shepherded me throughout my life.  I hope you are, too, and remember to share that with them often.  Thanks be to God.

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