I saw an interesting program on Television the other evening. Actually, I tuned in about the middle. It was a PBS presentation on sheep farming in Europe. The focus of the program was the triadic relationship that exist between the sheep, the shepherd and the shepherd's dog.
An interesting point that was made was that the sheep dog, who's ancestors lived in the wild as natural predators of the sheep, has been bred and trained to co-exist with sheep in a harmonious relationship. What makes this relationship possible is the presence of the shepherd who assures the proper training of the dog which insures the safety of the sheep.
As I sat and watched this program, I could not help but think of the scripture passage found in John 10:3a-4. "He calls his sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice."
A primary image of our Christian faith is that of Jesus as the "Shepherd." Indeed, as sheep of his pasture, many times, Jesus stands between us and those things in the world we perceive as the enemy. Jesus intervenes on behalf of the sheep to insure a harmonious relationship.
For instance, I recall a story shared with me by a colleague. At the time this incident took place, my friend was a pastor of an inner city church in Boston. It seems that one of his parishioners, a young teen was gun down by another teen in some sort of street violence. As the day of the funeral approached, rumors began to fly about how friends and family members of the slain teen were going to retaliate against the family of the accused killer.
As the church filled with nervous and anxious mourners, my friend searched his soul and heart for words to ease the tension among the gathered body. His only restitution was to surrender the situation to the Shepherd.
As the service was about to begin, a brother of the fallen teen approach the pastor and requested the opportunity to speak before the service began. Unsure as to what he might say, my friend granted the request, and prayerfully waited for the youth to speak.
What the youth had to say was very short and simple. "One death in our community is enough. I call on all my family members and friends to let go of the anger within them and let my brother rest in peace." What he did next shocked, then brought to tears the gathered body. The brother of the slain youth, walked over to the youth accused of taking his brothers life and embraced him.
"Jesus is the good shepherds, he calls his sheep out and they know his voice. And the lion will lie down with the lamb and the wolf and the lamb will feed together."
What a wonderful Shepherd we have! My prayer for you this new year is that you will continue to know the voice of the Good Shepherd and you will head his call to gather as his flock.
God's Blessings, Pastor Pat
Thoughts for a New Year
"The turn of the year seems to offer an opportunity to start over, to become more like what we want to be. This desire springs from a deep human need. Those who reflect on their lives usually see that they fall short of their own ideals and of God's way, and they yearn for something better." (The Upper Room, Jan.-Feb.;1998)
I came across these words while browsing through a devotional guide that I use on occasion. I found these words to be very profound. The turn of the year has become a time in our lives that we reflect on "who we are" and "what we want to be." Many times, the "who we are" is a person who needs some positive changes in their lives. The "who we are" is over-weight, physically inactive, works too much, does not have enough free time, lacks direction in his\her life and so on.
On the other hand, the "what we want to be" person is a person on the opposite end of the spectrum. The "what we want to be" person is a person who maintains an ideal weight, has a body like Mr.\Ms. America, has a great career and achieves the proper balance between work, play, and family time.
In our desire to become "what we want to be" many times we set our goals too high, quickly become frustrated, and soon give up on trying to become "what we want to be" and settle for "the way we are."
I would like to propose to you an alternative way of reflecting on your life as you begin this new year. As you reflect, instead of beginning with those things you would like to change, lift up those areas that are positive in your life and bring you great joy. Perhaps you are engaged in some type of volunteer work. You may be active in some ministry at this church or another. Perhaps your occupation affords you the opportunity to help others. Maybe it was a simple act of kindness you were involved in over the Christmas season.
Hopefully, during this new year, you will find positive aspects of your life that you do not want to change but celebrate. As the New Year begins it is important to remember that God is behind all that we do for the good of others and ourselves. May you continue to be about the good work of the Lord until we are united in Christ as the Kingdom of God on earth.