Ramble for Good Shepherd Sunday 21st April 2024

 Sheep are popularly imagined to be dumb creatures, easily led, easily picked off one by one by predators because (it is wrongly thought) they scatter in all directions at any alarm. The image isn’t helped by Monty Python skits like this: (You will carry on reading after the clip, won’t you?)

Of course, this picture of a solitary, scattered, sheep is what Christians fasten on to. Like today’s Psalm 23, The Lord is *my* Shepherd. Or Luke 17, we cast ourselves as the lone lost sheep, sought out at great cost by the Great Shepherd. And yes, praise God, it has been a most wonderfully comforting picture, held in front of countless believers as they navigate their own Valley of the Shadow of Death. We have a unique, personal relationship with the Shepherd. If we consider at all that sheep are in a communal flock, the Shepherd cares for the whole fold, it is only in the context of all going astray.

But it turns out that sheep aren’t that stupid after all. It’s not only “'Arold, that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep”, but a rigorous, long term, academic study reveals that when perceived danger looms, far from scattering in all directions, in fact they coalesce around the centre of the flock. To map this ovine behaviour to Christian believers, instead of wandering the Valley of the Shadow by ourselves, we seek the encouragement, love, and prayer and practical support of our faith community. But don’t we then lose sight of our Shepherd, surrounded as we are by fellow sheep? No. Because who is at the centre of that community? Revelation 7:

For the Lamb at the centre of the throne

will be their shepherd;

he will lead them to springs of living water.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Let’s pray.

Loving God. Your Son, the Great Shepherd, has sought me and saved me, at the cost of His own life. And He has restored me to a community of the redeemed. May I love them as He has loved me. Keep my ears alert for His voice. For the voice which has called me by my own name because I am His. And the voice which will one day call me away from the Valley of the Shadow to a banqueting table prepared for me and for a great multitude which no-one can number. In your house. For ever. Amen.


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