Following the Good Shepherd
I recently had the opportunity to preach through Psalm 23. It is a psalm that many of us are very familiar with; some might even have it memorized. The psalm deals with the relationship between God and us. In Psalm 23 we are compared to sheep, and God is our shepherd.
As I preached this psalm it dawned on mewhy did God call us sheep when there are so many other cool animals. How about the mighty lion, or the noble eagle, the cunning fox, or the powerful bear. Just about any animal is better than a sheep, yet we are called “sheep” in the books of Luke, Matthew, Jeremiah, John, Genesis, Revelation, and I Chronicles.
The truth is this; we are called sheep because that’s how we act. I must confess, I am not the foremost expert on sheep. I have never owned one, and would be satisfied if I never do. But there are some characteristics that I am aware of in sheep.
First, sheep are not very smart. Take for instance the news article out of Western Turkey that documented 1,500 sheep walking off of a cliff because they were following the first sheep that did so. The first 400 sheep died, but broke the fall of the next 1,100. Not very smart at all.
Second, sheep are prone to wander, even when they are put in green pastures (this is why the shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures). This is why John writes in John 10, “the sheep know the shepherd, and the shepherd knows his sheep.” It is the Good Shepherd that guides and protects his sheep.
Third, sheep are defenseless. They can’t run fast, they don’t have claws or fangs, and they can’t even make an intimidating sound. Put a sheep out in the wild, and it’s a free snack. In short, a sheep can only survive with the care of a shepherd.
Simply put, left to ourselves, man would die and be separated from the goodness of God, but because He is the good shepherd, he laid down his life so that we, his sheep, might have life and have it more abundantly.
– Jason Wood, Pastor, Calvary Evangelical Free Church
Fall has arrived
Fall has arrived. I know this because my garden is spent, the daylight is getting shorter, the cool night air creeps in my bedroom window, and the tree leaves are gathering on the ground at my back door.
To me, fall means change and I welcome it. I am ready to retire my lawnmower for another season. I am ready to catch up on “house” work and take a break from yard work. And it is no secret, I like winter. I like the whiteness of snow, cross country skiing, and pulling my kids in the sled to school. I like the four distinct seasons in North Dakota and I embrace each one whole-heartedly.
But fall seems to be a season in which we can be a little more reflective. This season combines dying and letting go with beauty and peace, calling us to slow down and reflect on life, change and what is yet to come.
Falling leaves remind me of a poem I read a couple of years ago written by another pastor who has a gift with words and shares them in a daily email devotion entitled Unfolding Light (www.unfoldinglight.net) He reflects on how our acts spread far and wide for the benefit of many. And then he touches on how our mistakes add to the fertile ground within us which in turn enhances our actions and the positive impact we make in the world. It is a beautiful cycle; living, growing, sharing, making mistakes, forgiving, learning, letting go, living, growing, sharing and so it repeats.
Even within us there is dying, change, reflection and letting go. Maybe that is why the season of fall touches us so deeply. What we see so vividly on the outside matches what is happening on our inside. But often we don’t realize that the dying and the letting go will ultimately give rise to spring and the fertile ground that brings forth new life.
I hope you have time and space to do some of this reflecting, letting go, and wrestling with whatever it is that is dying in your life. So often we ignore and shut out these thoughts. This fall embrace them and acknowledge their value. All cycles and seasons of life are important. As you go through this process, may you trust that God is with you in every season of your life.
Peace to you!
And now, here is a copy of that poem:
All the greatest things you have done,
with those of all the masters,
are little purple berries
on the end of bare branches
that songbirds come and eat
and then migrate far,
strong and beautiful.
All the mistakes you ever made
fall like leaves and rot
in God’s good dark earth
until, after time and regret
and a winter of letting go,
it all becomes rich, black soil.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, “Unfolding Light”
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