Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Fresh Look at the Good Shepherd

Because we don't live in the countryside outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago we aren't always able to understand and appreciate the parables that Jesus told.  Psalm 23 and John 10 both talk about how the Lord is like a Good Shepherd who risks sacrificing everything for his sheep.  I recently wrote the story below and shared it as narrator for the morning message in worship.  The pastor portrayed the Good Shepherd,  a lay member of the church portrayed the young and foolish shepherd. The children in attendance portrayed the sheep.  A teen portrayed the wolf.    In acting out the story, the entire congregation was enabled to visualize and appreciate in a new way what Jesus really meant when he talked about the shepherd laying down his life for his sheep and so faithfully caring for them.  

Once there was a Good Shepherd who faithfully cared for his flock of sheep.
By day the shepherd led his sheep to green pastures and streams of water so that they might be well nourished and grow up healthy and strong.
As evening fell the shepherd took his flock to a sheep pen where they could take their rest in peace, unmolested by wild animals or thieves.  Then the shepherd himself lay down to guard the entrance to the sheep pen.
One night the sheep became restless and agitated.  A wolf had caught their scent and was lurking and skulking about the sheep pen looking for a way in, but the wolf could not get over or through the wall.  Frustrated and hungry, the wolf was not about to give up.  He found his way to the sheep gate where the shepherd was asleep on the ground.  The wolf sneaked toward the sheep thinking he had found his way into the pen.  As the wolf drew near the shepherd –who hadn’t been sleeping at all- suddenly sat up. Taking aim with his sling shot he fired at the wolf.  He intended to stun the wolf, but this wolf was very hungry.  After being shot with the sling shot he was just plain mad.  The wolf leapt at the shepherd.  When the struggle was over both the wolf and the shepherd were wounded and bloodied, but the wolf ran away, abandoning his hoped for meal.
The shepherd knew if he didn’t move his flock the wolf would only return again and again.  So he called to his flock and led them out to a new pasture and sheep pen several days travel away.  Along the way he met another shepherd by the name of Simon.  Simon was not a bad shepherd. He cared for his sheep.  But he was young and not especially wise.  As the sheep were settled in the pen for the night and the two shepherds sat down together under the stars, Simon told his story to the Good Shepherd.                                                                       

It seems that a caravan had passed his way, and a man from the caravan sought Simon out offering to watch over his flock so Simon could go into a nearby village and have a night of pleasure for himself.  Simon, like most shepherds, was tired, dirty and smelly.  The idea of a night in the village to get a proper bath and have a little fun was just what he needed.  So Simon paid the man in advance (as I said, he wasn’t very wise) and headed into town. 
Of course, when Simon returned the next day the man and his flock were both gone, Simon chased after the hired watchman.  After three hard days of travel he caught up with the man.  A fist fight broke out.  Simon had a black eye and a twisted ankle, was generally sore and bruised, but he had his sheep back. 
Hearing his tale and seeing the condition he was in, the Good Shepherd invited Simon to travel with him and his flock.  Simon agreed that working together to care for their flocks would give him time to heal and joining forces would keep both flocks safe.
Every day they took their sheep out to the meadows and streams to feed and drink and play in the sun.  
Every night they lay at the sheep gate, guarding the sheep with their own bodies and lives.
A week later Simon was feeling fully recovered and the two shepherds decided to part company again.   Each man called for his sheep, and because the sheep knew the voice of the shepherd who so faithfully cared for them they separated themselves and followed, moving on to new and unknown places with confidence and perfect trust.  And the Good Shepherd, though his life was hard, was filled with love and joy.
Let those who have eyes see.
Let those who have ears hear.
 There is a good shepherd.  His name is Jesus.  He willingly and joyfully lays down his life for you because he loves you.  Because his greatest delight is to share the joy of life with His Father with those whom he loves.
Listen.  Hear him calling.
Learn to recognize his voice. 
Follow him. 
And he will care for you.

The message concluded with the playing of the song "He Will Carry You" by the Gaither Vocal Band:  
 There is no problem too big
God cannot solve                                                     There is no mountain too tall
He cannot move
There is not storm too dark
God cannot calm
There is no sorrow too deep 
He cannot soothe

If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know, my brother that He will carry you
If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know, my sister that He will carry you

He said come on to me all who are weary
And I will give you rest

Whatever storms or problems you may be encountering at this time in your life, you are not alone.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for and carries you.

Grace and Peace, 

1 comment:

  1. By far your best blog! This is so good I am seeking a place to put it in the OAM website, pointing out the relevance to caregiving. Please consider this as a request for permission to post, with full credit. If that is not possible, then allow me to post a teaser link to your article, with the http address and a brief description. reply to Blessings on you, dear sister in Christ!