Sunday, May 03, 2020
Good Shepherds and False Shepherds
This is Good Shepherd Sunday in the Christian liturgical year, set for the fourth Sunday of the Season of Easter. In most North American and European congregations shepherds/pastors are separated from their flocks because of COVID-19. It's strange that the false shepherds Jesus warns about are the ones who encourage their flocks to gather even though it could be deadly. They offer dangerous assurances that God will protect them, that "Jesus is My Vaccine."
During my years in pastoral ministry I was partial to this Sunday, in part because dear friends kept sheep in two locations where they lived. The second was north of Sharbot Lake in some wild country and he was vigilant watching over his lambs in Spring because wolves and the occasional bear roamed the area.
The same couple travelled with me on my first trip to Israel with a group of only eight people. In meant that we were in a van rather than a tour coach and it was great. We drove what was essentially a military road through hills and valleys on our way north from Jerusalem. We would come around a bend in this rugged region to look down into valleys where there were pasturing flocks of sheep. It gave life to passages about David as the fearless shepherd, the 23rd psalm, the parable of the Lost Sheep, and the imagery of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
As we worship virtually this Sunday, as we have for a couple of months now, we can be grateful for pastors (a term which means shepherds) whose love and care is demonstrated by keeping the flock scattered.
I should mention that one year I got another parishioner to come to church on Good Shepherd Sunday with a lamb as an object lesson for the children's time. Of course the kids couldn't care less about what I was blathering on about. All they wanted to do was pet the lamb...duh!
I'll finish with this wonderful image of a sheep in Australia which escaped from its flock six years ago and returned recently. There was evidence that predators attacked it but it was protected by its thick mat of 60 pounds of wool. If some of us don't get a haircut soon we may have a similar appearance!