It was good to see 16 of us together yesterday afternoon and if you one, we enjoyed you being there! For those who couldn’t be with us, hopefully soon! May your week go well and may you be blessed in knowing the loving presence of our good God, all around you! Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
My friends, the beautiful rendition of the 23rd psalm— “Shepherd Me, O God,” speaks well, I believe of the desire of our loving God to not only shepherd and care for the flock—which is, all of us, but also, and more importantly—to care for each of us as individuals. To God, we aren’t really, “a flock,”—a group that can be cared for, all in the same way, but individuals, with individual needs.
In order to get the full import of this “shepherd” mentality; we need to have an idea of where it came from. Being that the community was a “shepherding” people, the metaphor of “shepherd” was a good one. Originally, the “shepherd” metaphor referred to political leaders—specifically, the kings whose task and responsibility it was to care for the people and keep them from going astray. The leaders in question, not only neglected the people, but actually did cause them to scatter.
In the Roman Catholic church, as well as in other Christian churches, there has been a long tradition of characterizing its leaders as “shepherds,” in the truest sense of the word. The crosier, or staff used by the bishop, has long been their symbol. Despite the fact that the crosier has become many times quite ornate, perhaps a sign that an individual “shepherd” is confusing his/her role, the symbolism is intended to be that of a simple shepherd’s crook.
We often hear stories of sheep as not being very smart and needing the guidance of a shepherd to gently bring them back to the flock when they stray. Now with the thought that we are all, the sheep; I like to think of this creature as being “inquisitive” rather than dumb—simply wanting to check out the territory. In that, we like the sheep, sometimes get into trouble, not thinking through perhaps, our actions and like the sheep, straying after a “wonderful morsel” on the edge of a cliff, that might indeed get us stuck out there, not being able to get back.
There is also the reality that sheep, who are apparently quite trusting by nature, can blindly follow a shepherd without questioning where that shepherd is leading them—as long as their bellies are full and water is provided, with the promise of more to come. It is good for us to reflect on the message of the “shepherds” in our lives—are these people true leaders—encouraging and bringing us closer to the dream of Jesus of Nazareth, that “all would be one”—that “everyone would be welcome at the table,” or are these “shepherds” more concerned about their own advancement and unwilling to do the really hard work of shepherding their flock, tending to needs and binding up their wounds?
Each of us struggles throughout our lives with knowing the right ways to go—to act, and so much can get in the way: our well-trained beliefs and whom we trust— “Woe to those shepherds,” who lead others astray!
Our Catholic church unfortunately is in a bad place as roughly 50% of believers seem caught up in interpreting the “letter of the law” as they are led by their shepherds, who many times seem more concerned about, “keeping order” than about engaging our diverse and wonderful world, as did Jesus of Nazareth.
Our loving God, through the prophet Jeremiah, minces no words, and apparently our God will show little mercy toward leaders who have led their people astray—again, “woe to you shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture. I am about to attend to you for the evil of your ways!” Leaders whose ultimate motive, in the end, is of taking care of themselves—by way of advancement rather than tending to the well-being of their people, are no leaders at all!
Also, the expectation of a leader is one who will, from time to time, stand away from “the crowd,”—the “status quo” opinion, to speak the hard truth when those who are following (the sheep) are not moving in that direction. I, for one, for a long time, have been, “hungry” for this kind of leadership. The 23rd psalm is probably one of the most beloved pieces of Scripture, speaking of the “good shepherd” and that is probably because of a deep need within each of us to be loved and cared for amid the trials and burdens of our days and throughout, our lives.
My friends—Jesus, our brother and friend shows us the way that we can be shepherds. In some way, we all have the responsibility of leadership. We are to tend to the needs of the kin-dom—whenever and wherever the kind-dom presents itself in our lives. Even my use of “kin-dom” here, as most RCWPs use, speaks to our mission more than the older, more familiar, “kingdom” does. “Kingdom” speaks to the realm of an earthly sovereign whereas “kin-dom” speaks more to the people that the sovereign, or shepherd is looking after—the needs of the many, rather than the one. The “kin-dom” is truly what our brother Jesus was about!
In the end, if we are about anything other than being, “Jesus” for our world—wherever that “world” is, be it large or small, seen or unseen, then we are perhaps, “missing the boat,” so to speak. We may be very engaged, very passionate about what we are doing in the name of “religion,” but unless we are about, “the work of love” in our world; we might call that, “religious,” but it certainly is not, “Christian.” Amen? Amen!