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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sheep

It’s sheep season again in the lectionary. Of course if you happen to be out in the countryside, you may notice that it’s “lambing season” out there too. But I’m not going to talk about signs of spring and new babies in the pastures and the barns and the nests. Today I’m trying to think about this whole metaphor of the sheep and the shepherds.

One summer, long ago, my son Arthur worked on a sheep farm. That was a very formative summer for him in a number of ways. It was a summer of heat and hay and hard, hard work. But it was also a summer of changing attitudes-- about sheep, for one thing. I recall Art saying that he’d heard the scripture of the peaceable kingdom and the lion lying down with the lamb. Now he knew, he would tell us, that the problem wasn’t going to be with the lion; if there was any trouble you could bet it was the lamb who started it!

Sheep have several problematic tendencies. They will follow a leader into no matter what kind of trouble with nary a backward glance. Or they will get separated from the community and just keep going, no looking back or turning around. And, of course, they aren’t very smart.

So we return to that familiar Psalm and try to hear it again, from the sheep’s perspective. All that leading and rescuing and pulling out of dark crevasses (probably a better translation than our usual understanding of the lush grassy valleys) might bring new images to mind. Given the gospel’s use of the Good Shepherd as an image for Jesus, we don’t have another place for ourselves. If Jesus is the “shepherd” than there’s nothing else for it but to cast ourselves in the role of “the sheep.” None too flattering a concept, alas.

The lectionary also reminds us about Peter, though. Even though the reference is one more “lost sheep” reference, I am still reminded of his encounter with the risen Jesus on the shore (John 21) when he keeps saying “Do you love me? Feed my sheep; feed my lambs.” It’s possible to think of Jesus' whole ministry as one of trying to get us sheep out of the fold where we want to cower and feel safe. He’s been trying to teach us not to be fearful bumbling critters, but to recognize that we need not be captive there. He is both the Shepherd and the “gate” (John 10) and now we are freed to live with a new reality, as “resurrection people.”

He is alive, and we are called to become shepherds too. What do you think? Can we be both sheep and shepherds? Can we learn the lesson of “turn around” and move on to be a feeder of sheep and lambs?

That’s my question for today.

Posted by Marion

2 comments:

  1. Hi Ya'll...just wanted to say that Joyce & I appreciate very much the "postings", we may not be too vocal with our fingers, but be encouraged we look forward to the messages that others post, keep up the good work. !!!!
    God Bless
    Lyle McDonald

    ReplyDelete
  2. Greetings Lyle and Joyce,
    Thanks for your encouraging words of support to a couple of "shepherds" to the north!

    ReplyDelete