Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” (Jn. 10:11)
It was my first sermon. I was doing an internship after my first year in seminary, and one of our duties that summer was to lead a service at an assisted living home.
When it was my turn, I choose to talk about Jesus the Good Shepherd. I thought this image would be pastoral and well received.
The sermon worked for all the folks, but one. At the end of the service a man came to me, picked up his walker, and slammed it down and said, “Young man, you have no future as a preacher.
Sheep are stupid creatures. If you knew anything about sheep, you wouldn’t insult us.”
How did I feel about his comments? Mixed. I was initially deflated, but then I started to reflect. You see, I did know something about sheep, and something about myself and other people, and I didn’t see much difference.
I knew about sheep because my mother had years before purchased a sheep to trim the grass. Many times each day my brothers and I had to rescue that sheep. It would spill its water bowl. It would get wrapped so tight around a tree that it would begin choking to death. It would bite us when we fed it. It would become frightened over nothing and piteously bleat. If we took it off its rope, it would wander off and get lost.
I’m a sheep. I don’t know anyone who isn’t. Do I—we—ever knock over important things? Ever get so wrapped up around something we begin to choke? Ever get afraid over nothing? Ever bite those we love? Ever get lost? Sheep indeed.
Today I encourage us to acknowledge our sheep status. It’s not my intention to insult anyone; it is, though, my intention to say the truth about who we are and about what we need.
Sheep without a shepherd will starve, get lost, and die. True for real sheep. True for us sheep. The more we accept our sheep status the more we will see our need for a shepherd. There is, finally and ultimately, only one shepherd who is good. His name is Jesus.
- How and when have you acted like a sheep? Gotten lost? Harmed those closest to you? Been afraid over nothing? Became wrapped so tight you began to choke?
- How and when has Jesus been your Good Shepherd? Found you? Fed you? Guided you? Rescued you? Carried you?
- How is your sheep-status? Are you more lost or found, hungry or fed, afraid or secure? And, finally, where are you with the Shepherd?