Monday, February 25, 2013

A Welcoming Shepherd

John 10:11-18  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away--and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

 The illustration of a shepherd saving sheep is etched deep in our spiritual psyche. The depiction of God as a shepherd in Psalm 23 has comforted countless people through many generations. The Good Shepherd periscope in John 10: 1-21 – of Jesus laying down his life to keep his sheep safe - is a similarly popular portion of scripture. There are also other good shepherds in human story telling – the most famous of which was the ancient Greek story of kriophoros (Κριοφόρος). This tells of Hermes, portrayed as a shepherd who saved the city of Tanagra, a municipality north of Athens in Boeotia, Greece.    

The good news of John’s Gospel is that Jesus is not exclusive about the sheep he saves. All sheep are welcome: I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also (Joh 10:16). This reassures me that I too am welcome in Jesus’ flock. The challenge of this lies in the insistence that Jesus also welcomes sheep ‘other than me’. We love being Jesus’ sheep. The question is whether we love “other sheep” of Jesus too?

“.... red and yellow, black and white
All are precious in his sight
Jesus love the little children of the world”    


The Eighth Sunday after Epiphany
Protected by God
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.95



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