25th April 2021
...the brightest of creatures...
"I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down
his life for the sheep.'
Today we have another of
the great 'I am.." sayings.
"I am the Good Shepherd".
Now what I know about sheep and shepherding
(real sheep, that is),
you could put on a postage stamp
and still have room for -
well, a lot more!
My only experience with sheep is highly limited.
Stuck in a car in narrow, sheep filled lanes
of Kent or Devon, watching a shepherd and dogs trying
to manoeuvre them from field to field,
or encountering them on walks
in the Fells, Dales or Lake District.
They do not seem to me to be
the brightest of creatures;
they are easily spooked, either follow blindly
(especially another sheep who wants
to go the wrong way)
or go any way rather than the right one!
AND JESUS CALLS US HIS SHEEP!!!
Perhaps there's a lesson to be learnt here!!
But one of the most amazing sights I saw
on my visits to the Holy Land was the shepherd
leading his flock across the Judean desert,
out in front with the sheep
strung out behind following him.
When two or more flocks get mixed
at watering holes they are easily separated;
the shepherd stands off to one side and calls;
and the sheep come to him.
These shepherds live with their sheep 24/7
no wonder they know their master's voice.
A shepherd, being accountable for the sheep
under his watch, counted his flock
(often over 100), one by one, morning and night
(he might be illiterate but not innumerate!),
knowing and calling each one by name.
He would gather the sheep into a fold at night
to protect them against would-be thieves,
predatory animals and cold weather.
The fold contained a single opening,
and this entrance was guarded
with the shepherd's own body.
Surely this is why God chose the shepherd king,
David, to be the 'forefather' of the shepherd king,
Jesus and why He chose to announce
the birth of the Messiah to a
bunch of shepherds first.
From what we know about shepherds
and their working habits, it's one of the
best analogies from the working world
that we have of how God cares for us.
And when He calls, will we follow?
Have we opened our ears to hear his voice?
We need to be part of his flock.
From what and to what has Jesus,
the Good Shepherd called you?
He made us his own by rescuing us
from the temptation to go where
things look greenest.
Has he become hope when there was no hope,
freedom from burdens we know would crush us,
peace from turmoil within and without?
That voice of the one who has called us to trust him
is the one of the Good Shepherd
who laid down his life for you,
for me - for all - on the cross.
He gave up his life so we could have it.
Then he rose from death to tell us
all he said was true; his words - his promises -
his love for us and all people -
his acceptance of people of every kind -
his leading us and giving us eternal,
never-ending living with him--
What a voice to hear and to follow!!
Jesus did miracles when he was on earth;
he does miracles in all our lives now:
have we recognised them?
Do we see how wonderful it is that we,
who were once scattered, once lost,
are recovered, given light
in the darkness of our despair,
and are given life forever in Christ?
And when He calls, will we follow?
It can happen in the most unexpected places
and unexpected times.
When `I was in prison ministry, In the wilderness that was prison,
we would hold Alpha courses before and during Lent.
Many prisoners attended
(I think it was more for the food provided
than our scintillating evangelism!)
and at then at the end of the course
we would find up to 10 Prisoners
responding to God's calling
(the change in them was remarkable)
and they were baptised on the following
At this service the men would give their
Testimonies, many heart wrenching, most powerful.
One particularly stuck with me.
Greg (not his real name) turned me to mush
as he told his story.
It was his first time inside,
he'd got mixed up with the wrong people,
was caught and sent down for a long time.
Once he had been through the processing,
he ended up with us;
the first night he was sitting in his cell
in the middle of the night unable to sleep
and the realization hit him -
he was in for the long haul.
He broke down and sobbed,
seriously considering taking his life
he prayed for the first time
since he was a child.
As he prayed he felt as though he'd been
enveloped by a warm blanket
and heard a voice. He said,
'I heard him call me by name,
I knew it was God.
He said he would always be with me
and to go to the Chaplaincy in the morning.
And here I am.'
Greg became an invaluable member
of the Chaplaincy and lead many others
to God by his story.
Believe me, Jesus sees us and calls us
wherever we are, in whatever situations
we find ourselves.
Not all stories are as dramatic as Greg's
because God responds to us in our own
but we are always under the ever loving,
watchful eye of the Good Shepherd.
How about spending some time this week
reflecting on Psalm 23,
reminding ourselves of how Jesus,
the Good Shepherd looks after us,
It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'The Lord's My Shepherd '
sung by Stuart Townend
via the link shown below.