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JOHN 10:11-18|SHEEPISHLY

April 17, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

SHEEPISHLY

JOHN 10:11-18

APRIL15, 2018

 

I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SHEEP.  SO, IF IT’S OKAY WITH YOU, I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT CATS FOR A MOMENT.

 

I DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THEM EITHER, BUT I AM ACQUAINTED WITH THEM BY ASSOCIATION.

 

WE ARE DOWN TO SIX CATS RIGHT NOW; THERE HAVE BEEN MANY MORE THAN THAT IN THE PAST.

 

KAREN HAS RAISED, CARED FOR, DOCTORED, AND HAD MORE CATS FIXED IN HER LIFETIME THAN MANY VETS OR SPCA’S WILL EVER SEE; AND ALMOST ALL OF THEM FOUND HER.

 

PEOPLE USED TO EVEN LEAVE THEM ON THE DOORSTEP OF WHERE WE LIVED; ESPECIALLY THE SICK, MAIMED, WOUNDED, AND DEFORMED ONES – AND SHE CARED FOR THEM ALL.  SHE HAS A SPECIAL CALLING AND CARING HEART.  SOME, INCLUDING HER, AT TIMES, MIGHT CALL IT A CURSE.

 

AS I SAY, WE ARE DOWN TO SIX CATS NOW.  FOUR OF THEM ARE OUTSIDE CATS.

 

THERE’S AUBIE, THE OLDEST, WHO KAREN NAMED AFTER MY COLLEGE MASCOT, AND WHO’S BEST DESCRIBED AS BEING LIKE EEYORE THE DONKEY FROM WINNIE THE POOH.

 

THERE’S JUNE, NAMED AFTER KAREN’S MOTHER, WHO LOVES TO ROLL AROUND IN FRONT OF YOU, BEGS TO BE PETTED, AND WHO’S MEOW IS LITTLE MORE THAN A SQUEAK.

 

THEN THERE’S BELLE – WITH AN “E” WHO NOT ONLY THINKS OF HERSELF AS THE BELLE OF THE BALL, BUT THE BULLY AS WELL; AND WE’VE ALL KNOWN “BELLE’S” LIKE THAT IN OUR LIFE.

 

THERE’S SESAME, NAMED FOR THE COLOR OF HER COAT; AND CHEESE, OUR LATEST ADDITION, WHO IS AN ORANGE TABBY.  KAREN HAS A SPECIAL AFFINITY FOR ORANGE TABBIES.

 

AND SPOOKY, WHO SOME OF YOU KNOW AS PC, WHOM WE INHERITED WHEN STEVE SANDERSON LEFT TOWN.  ONE OF SPOOKY’S KITTENS (NOW GROWN) BELONGS TO HOMER HERRICK.

 

DON’T LET MY DESCRIPTIONS FOOL YOU: I’M THE HIRED HAND.  KAREN IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD.

KAREN KNOWS THEIR MEOWS, THEIR CRIES, AND THE MEANINGS OF EACH; HUNGRY, SLEEPY, STUCK, NEEDING LET IN OR LET OUT, THREATENED OR THREATENING.

 

SHE KNOWS THEIR PERSONALITIES AND PECULIARITIES.

 

SHE IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD – THE GOOD CAT-HERDER; I’M THE HIRED HELP.  AND THE CATS KNOW THE DIFFERENCE TOO!

 

SHE WOULD LIKELY LAY DOWN HER LIFE FOR THEM; I’D PROBABLY TAKE OFF AT THE FIRST SIGN OF THE WOLF.

 

AND THEREIN LIES THE DIFFERENCE.

 

“I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD.” JESUS SAYS, “I KNOW MY OWN AND MY OWN KNOW ME.  AND I LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR THE SHEEP.”

 

THAT’S WHAT MAKES HIM GOOD, ACCORDING TO JOHN – HIS WILLINGNESS TO GET INVOLVED, TO RISK HIS LIFE FOR THE LIFE OF HIS FLOCK.  HIS FLOCK.

 

NOT SOMEBODY ELSE’S FLOCK, WHICH HE GETS PAID MINIMUM WAGE TO LOOK AFTER, BUT HIS OWN FLOCK – THE ONE HE BRED, RAISED AS LAMBS, FED, DOCTORED, AND PROTECTED.

 

HE’S INVESTED IN THEM, IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.

 

HIS SHEEP ARE HIS LIVELIHOOD, FOR ONE THING, BUT THEY ARE ALSO HIS EXTENDED FAMILY.

 

THEY KNOW HIS VOICE, HIS TOUCH; THEY KNOW HIM BY SIGHT.  IF HE WERE TO CALL FOR THEM, THEY’D COME RUNNING.  AND IF THEY WERE THREATENED, HE’D BE THE ONE RUNNING TO THEM.

 

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT OWNERSHIP THAT CREATES INTIMACY, ESPECIALLY OWNERSHIP OF LIVING THINGS.

 

YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.  IF YOU’VE EVER HAD A CAT OR DOG OR OTHER PET, YOU KNOW THEY BECOME PART OF THE FAMILY.

 

THEY JUMP UP IN YOUR LAP WHEN THEY SENSE YOU’RE FEELING SAD.

YOU KNOW WHEN TO PET THEM AND GIVE THEM EXTRA ATTENTION.

 

YOU TAKE THEM WITH YOU, OUT OF HARM’S WAY, SAY, IN A HURRICANE, LIKE IRMA.

 

YOU CRY WHEN THEY GET SICK AND DIE.

OWNING A PET IS WHAT WE CALL IT, BUT WE KNOW IT’S MUCH MORE THAN THAT;

 

AND THERE’S A LEVEL OF INTIMACY TO IT THAT IS SOMETIMES GREATER THAN WHAT WE HAVE WITH SOME PEOPLE IN OUR LIVES.

 

AND THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT JESUS SEEMS TO BE TALKING ABOUT HERE – WITH THE SHEPHERD AND HIS SHEEP – WITH HE – OUR GOOD SHEPHERD – AND WE – HIS SHEEP.

 

BUT WHEN JESUS SAYS THIS TO HIS COMPANIONS, HE KNOWS SOMETHING THEY DON’T KNOW; SOMETHING THEY HAVEN’T QUITE CAUGHT ON TO; EVEN THOUGH HE’S GIVEN THEM PLENTY OF HINTS; WITH PLENTY MORE TO COME.

 

JESUS KNOWS HE WILL NOT ALWAYS BE AROUND.  HE KNOWS WHAT THE WORLD’S ABOUT TO DO TO HIM; WHAT THE WORLD ALWAYS DOES TO THE PROPHETS, OF EVERY AGE.

 

JESUS KNOWS THAT THERE’S A PRICE TO BE PAID FOR CALLING OUT THE WORLD; FOR PROCLAIMING HOW GOD WANTS IT TO BE DIFFERENT; BETTER; MORE JUST; MORE LOVING; MORE KIND.

 

THAT KIND OF TALK WILL GET YOU KILLED; AND IT ALWAYS HAS; AND IT ALWAYS DOES; AND IT ALWAYS WILL, I SUPPOSE.

 

SO, WHO’S GOING TO PROTECT THEM WHEN HE’S NOT AROUND?  WHO’LL TAKE CARE OF THEM WHEN HE’S GONE?  JESUS IS THINKING.  BUT HE KNOWS.

 

YES, GOD, OF COURSE.  SOMETIMES GOD IS THE ONLY TRUE SHEPHERD WHO CAN HELP THEM!

 

BUT SOMETIMES GOD’S A LONG WAY AWAY; BUSY WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD, THE COSMOS, AND LIFE; THEY NEED A MORE IMMEDIATE SHEPHERD;

 

AND NOT JUST A HIRED HAND; NOT JUST SOMEONE WHO’S PAID TO CARE, AND WHO’LL LIKELY BAIL AT THE FIRST SIGN OF TROUBLE.

 

THEY NEED SOMEONE WHO REALLY CARES; WHO’LL BE A GOOD SHEPHERD; WHO’LL LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THEM.

 

JESUS KNOWS EXACTLY WHO HE’S GOT IN MIND.

 

WHEN JESUS IS KILLED: CRUCIFIED, DEAD, AND BURIED.  ALL HOPE SEEMS LOST.

 

BUT IN THREE DAYS, WHEN HE’S RESURRECTED, ALL SEEMS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD AGAIN, AT LEAST IN THE EYES OF HIS COMPANIONS;

BUT JESUS KNOWS THIS IS ONLY A TEMPORARY FIX; HE WILL STILL BE LEAVING THEM IN A LITTLE WHILE.

 

IT IS AT ONE OF THE LAST OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION APPEARANCES THAT HE COMES UP WITH THE ANSWER.  THERE HE IS WITH SOME OF THEM.  HE’S JUST FINISHED A BREAKFAST OF FISH AND BREAD WITH THEM.

 

HE’S PULLED PETER ASIDE, IN PARTICULAR, BUT THE MESSAGE IS REALLY FOR ALL OF THEM.

 

“PETER, DO YOU LOVE ME?”  “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU.”  “FEED MY SHEEP.”

 

AGAIN: “PETER, DO YOU LOVE ME?”  “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU.”  “TEND MY LAMBS.”

 

AND ONCE MORE: “PETER DO YOU LOVE ME?”  “LORD YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU.”  “FEED MY SHEEP.”

 

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT.  THE GOOD SHEPHERD – MAKES HIS SHEEP – THE GOOD SHEPHERDS.

 

THEY ARE TO TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER.  THEY ARE TO TAKE CARE OF OTHERS.  THEY ARE TO OWN IT.

 

SO ARE WE.

 

WE ARE TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES FOR OTHERS – THE OTHERS HE LOVED – THE OTHERS WE ARE NOW TO LOVE, BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.

 

BECAUSE OF THE RISEN CHRIST, WE HAVE THE POWER TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES, AND TAKE THEM UP AGAIN, AND GIVE THEM TO EACH OTHER.

 

WE’RE THE ONES WHO WON’T BACK DOWN WHEN THOSE WE LOVE ARE THREATENED; WE’RE THE ONES WHO COME RUNNING WHEN SOMEONE IS IN NEED; WE’RE THE ONES WHO’LL NOT FLEE WHEN WE SEE AN INJUSTICE OCCUR.

 

SHEEP AND SHEPHERDS WERE SO PREVALENT, SO UBIQUITOUS IN BIBLICAL TIMES, THAT THAT’S PROBABLY WHY THEY ARE USED SO OFTEN IN THE BIBLE.

 

THERE ARE THE LAMBS FOR THE SACRIFICE; AND THE RAM CAUGHT IN THE THICKET, AS A SUBSTITUTE OFFERING BY ABRAHAM, INSTEAD OF HIS SACRIFICING HIS SON ISAAC.

 

DAVID, BEFORE HE WAS KING, WAS A SHEPHERD.

 

AND ONCE, AFTER HE WAS KING, AND THINKING A BIT TOO HIGHLY OF HIMSELF;

 

THAT HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO HAVE, TO TAKE, WHATEVER HE WANTED, UP TO AND INCLUDING BATHSHEBA, THE WIFE OF URIAH THE HITTITE, HAVING HIM KILLED IN THE PROCESS;

 

IT IS THE PROPHET NATHAN WHO APPROACHES THE KING WITH A TALE OF A RICH MAN, WITH TONS OF SHEEP, STEALING THE ONE, POOR LITTLE LAMB OF A POOR MAN.

 

SO INCENSED IS KING DAVID UPON HEARING THIS, HE ORDERS THE RICH MAN’S ARREST;

 

“YOU ARE THE MAN,” NATHAN TELLS KING DAVID.

 

THERE’S THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM, TO WHICH WE’LL RETURN IN A MOMENT.

 

AND THAT TIME JOHN THE BAPTIST SEES JESUS, SEEMINGLY FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, AND ANNOUNCES: “BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD.”

 

THERE’S THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP, AND HOW MUCH HEAVEN REJOICES OVER THE ONE LOST – NOW FOUND, EVEN MORE THAN OVER THE 99 WHO STAY PUT.

 

THERE’S JESUS AS THE SHEEP GATE IN THE PASSAGE JUST BEFORE OURS, AND JESUS, AGAIN, AS THE LAMB UPON THE THRONE IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION.

 

SOMETIMES GOD IS THE SHEPHERD AND WE ARE HIS SHEEP;

 

SOMETIMES IT’S THE SON OF GOD WHO’S THE GOOD SHEPHERD, AND WE HIS SHEEP;

 

UNTIL SUCH TIME AS HE TURNS THE TABLES ON US, AND MAKES US GOOD SHEPHERDS TO ONE ANOTHER, AND TO OTHERS; TO WHICH WE RESPOND RATHER SHEEPISHLY, I WOULD SAY.

 

BUT LET’S GO BACK TO THAT BEST KNOWN OF THE PSALMS, POSSIBLY THE ONLY SCRIPTURE WE KNOW BY HEART, OTHER THAN THE LORD’S PRAYER, THAT REALLY DRIVES HOME WHAT IT IS GOD DOES FOR US;

 

WHAT GOD ALONE CAN DO FOR US.

 

AND YET, JESUS SEEMS TO SUGGEST, BY GOD’S CALLING, THAT THIS IS ALSO WHAT WE ARE TO DO FOR EACH OTHER, AND EVERYBODY ELSE AS WELL.

 

I’LL NOT COMPLICATE IT OR CONFUSE IT BY TRYING TO INJECT “WE” WHERE IT SAYS “HE;” OR PLUG IN OUR NAMES WHERE IT SAYS THE LORD;

 

BUT, JUST REMEMBER, EVERYWHERE IT SAYS THOSE THINGS, JESUS HAS MADE US THE GOOD SHEPHERDS OF OTHERS AS WELL.

 

AS BEST WE CAN, WE ARE TO ACT AS GOD ACTS.

 

RATHER THAN READING IT IN FIRST PERSON, AS WE USUALLY DO, AS WE BEING THE SHEEP; AS I READ IT, THINK OF YOURSELF, INSTEAD, IN THE ROLE OF THE SHEPHERD.

 

“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT WANT.  HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES; HE LEADS ME BESIDE STILL WATERS; HE RESTORES MY SOUL.

 

HE LEADS ME IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.

 

YEA THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR YOU ARE WITH ME; YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF WILL COMFORT ME.

 

YOU PREPARE A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES; YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL, MY CUP OVERFLOWS.

 

SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL BE WITH ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, AND I SHALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER.”

 

THAT’S WHAT GOD, WHAT CHRIST, WHAT THE GOOD SHEPHERD, PROVIDES US;

 

AND WHAT WE, AS GOOD SHEPHERDS ARE TO DO FOR EACH OTHER, AND FOR OTHERS.

 

YEARS AGO, THE WONDERFUL PREACHER, JOHN CLAYPOOL, TOLD THIS STORY.

 

ONE CLEAR DAY AN ITALIAN PEASANT MET A ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK WHO HAD COME DOWN A MOUNTAIN; DOWN FROM A MONASTERY ATOP THE MOUNTAIN.

 

THE PEASANT ASKED THE MONK WHAT THE MEN OF GOD WHO LIVED IN THE MONASTERY DID DAY AFTER DAY.

 

“WHAT DO US MEN OF GOD DO UP ON THE MOUNTAINTOP DAY AFTER DAY?

 

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT WE DO.  WE FALL DOWN, SKIN OUR KNEES AND THEN WE GET BACK UP.  WE FALL DOWN, SKIN OUR KNEES AND THEN WE GET BACK UP.

 

WE FALL DOWN, SKIN OUR KNEES AND THEN WE GET BACK UP.

 

WE ALL BELONG TO THE SOCIETY OF SKINNED KNEES.

 

BUT WE KNOW THAT WHEN WE FALL, THE HAND OF THE SHEPHERD (AND HERE I WOULD ADD SHEPHERDS) IS THERE TO GRASP US AND PLACE US BACK ON OUR FEET AND MOVE US FORWARD.

 

YOU MUST LEARN TO RECOGNIZE THE HAND OF THE SHEPHERD (SHEPHERDS, AND YES, EVEN CAT-HERDERS).

 

THEN YOU MUST TRUST IT.

 

IT IS THE HAND THAT LEADS FROM DESPAIR TO GOD’S FUTURE FOR EACH OF US.”

 

THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP – SO, LET IT BE.

 

 

 

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