Are we men, or are we…sheep?
The sheep were hurting and they were worried because their shepherd had been taken away from them. They didn’t know what they were going to do, so as all groups do when they don’t know what to do, they formed a committee.
Baa, said one of them. We don’t need a committee to get a shepherd.” “Yes we do, bleated others, “ because that Last Shepard taught us so much about what it means to be a sheep, and part of that is to take action and responsibility. We have to find somebody who knows what it means to be a sheep and isn’t too sheepish about letting us know what is best in our own lives”.
“We have to have someone who is going to spend time with us. Not just lead us from meadow to barn to meadow day after day. We need someone who will lie with us, who will even smell like us. Someone who knows that we have unique personalities—that we are not all exactly the same.
“ Okay, we want caring and identification what else do we want to see?” “How do we want that person to show their care?” asked a member of the flock.
“ First of all, they have got to get to know who we are, that we are more than a future serving of Shepard’s pie or a knit sweater, who will go after Mary’s lost little lamb and scare off the wolves, who isn’t ashamed to hold us when we’re hurting. The Good Shepherd really cared for us. How might we get that in the next shepherd?”
“Are we sure that we need a new Shepherd”, asked one of the sheep, nervously, but with conviction.” “I mean, we watched this past one very closely. We learned a lot from him. He taught us that, as sheep, we can be more than we think we are. We can learn to care for other like he cared for us.”
“What? Are you crazy? Of course we need a shepherd,” brayed the flock.
They were beside themselves. This had never been done before and what were the other flocks going to say? But some were curious. “Tell us more about this idea.”
“Well I haven’t really formulated it. It’s just a sense that if we all joined together and did for each other what our good shepherd did for us, we could be our own shepherds.”
We humans are not sheep. We know that, and we don’t want to be treated as if we were, in the sense of always being watched and not going anywhere we are not led. At the same time we are one. We are flock, we are congregation, we are community. We had a good shepherd who laid down his life for us. When the soldiers came for Jesús, He protected his apostles: “I’m the one you’re looking for. Leave these others alone.” He was the good shepherd who came from the chief Shepherd, the one who created us. He taught us what it really means to be a human being. That there’s a dimension beyond our understanding, even beyond our basic hopes and dreams.
The main desire we have as a people is to avoid death. We don’t like endings, for things to stop. We want to live forever. Jesus heard that yearning and said: “okay, we can do that. It might not be exactly the way you’d think, but it will be eternal life for your soul, so that you can know that whatever happens in this world, I am with you from mine. Then you will know that we can join together—be in communion, where our worlds become one. We can help each other live.“
Instead, we are in danger of being consumed by a culture of death, without resurrection. We settle our disputes, foreign and domestic, by killing each other. We belittle those who are different, and build walls and fences to isolate from each other. We are so afraid of threats from outside that we become threats inside to our most basic desires.
Someone writing on the internet about a USA need for protection from outsiders referred to Europe: immigrants are coming into Europe taking the Europeans’ land and replacing European culture with their own ways. We can’t let that happen here, the writer complains.
But it did happen here! That is exactly how this country was settled. Isn’t that what we did to the Native Americans because we wanted their land? Isn’t that what we did to the Mexicans when we changed their borders to ours?
One of the hymns about shepherds turns the noun into a verb. Shepherd me O God beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life. Our wants and fears are temporary, and lead to death. But we believe that death is temporary. Life is eternal. When we connect with the Good Shepherd and shepherd each other, we enter into eternal life.