The following is a link to our reading today:
They traveled to the important places in the region and he gave lectures about each of them. One of his lectures focused on the theme of the Good Shepherd and he gave that one while they were driving through the countryside—the home of shepherds. He pointed out to them that there was an important difference between shepherds in the Middle East and those in the west.
Now this story may be a religious “urban legend,” but I think it is a good illustration all the same. There is a huge difference between being led by a shepherd and being driven by a butcher. Now I have a question for you, how often in the past few days, weeks, months or years have you felt like you were being driven through your life? If you said very often, I would be willing to bet that you are not alone. We are living in a driven culture. Driven to make more money, be more successful, own more things and on and on. And then there are our own personal drives. Maybe you feel driven by your own compulsiveness and perfectionism—“things need to be done right and right means I am the only one who can do the job.” Maybe you feel driven by obligations. Maybe you feel driven by your fears or despair, or the desire to be accepted.
And then we have good shepherd Sunday. We hear about green pastures and still waters. “He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.” We hear that we are sheep who are protected by the shepherd, Jesus, the one who walks ahead of us and leads us with his voice. The one who lays his life down for us, the one who puts himself between us and the thieves and bandits and butchers of the world. The one who knows each of us intimately and calls us by name.
It can be very difficult to hear Jesus’ voice in the midst of all the noise. It can be very easy to be deceived into following the voices of the bandits, thieves and butchers of the world—the voices that do not call us in order to protect us—the voices that do not lead us to green pastures and still waters, the voices that do not bring us abundant life.
Well, I am sure all of us can think of someone in our lives whose voice is instantly recognizable to us. Maybe it is a member of your family or a close friend. How did you get to know that voice? How did it become so recognizable? How did you get to the place where you could pick that voice out even when you and that person were on opposite sides of a crowded and conversation filled room? Well you must have talked with that person and listened to that person. You spent time with him or her. You probably have a relationship with that person.
Well, take a few moments each day to spend “quality time” with Jesus. But, don’t just talk at him. Take some time in those moments to quiet the voices around you, including your own voice, and listen for Jesus’ response to you. Take some time in quiet to listen.
Read the Bible, that great book that tells the story of humankind’s encounters with God over thousands of years. Become so familiar with those stories that they become your story too. Join in worship each Sunday where we know Jesus is present because he told us that when two or three are gathered together in his name he will be in the midst of them. Hear the word of God read and proclaimed. Pray with Jesus’ other sheep. Be supported and uplifted by those around you. Share in Jesus’ body and blood and celebrate our Good Shepherd as we gather together around the altar. And finally, go out and serve others. Help your neighbors who are in need. I guarantee you that you will see Jesus in their faces and hear his voice when they speak.