Monday, May 8, 2017
Ezek. 34:23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.
The sheep of Israel were to be cared for, but the shepherds were not doing their job. This would result in the loss of their places of responsibility and eventually one shepherd would be placed over them all.
These were a people who were struggling -- a people of exile. They were to learn that while life may be difficult, it remains a great blessing to be a part of God’s flock. Great joy continues to fill the hearts of the sheep who are united as God’s flock.
Many of the scripture readings during this season are about sheep and shepherding. Today I had an interesting conversation with a woman on a plane that made me think about the ways in which we divide up the sheep and how we lose out on potential blessings.
During that settling down period on the plane we began with simple conversation. She had been in Kansas City over the weekend for her son-in-law’s graduation from college. She bragged about this wonderful young man and the way he is passionate about being a fire-fighter, helping to care for the grandchildren and then working hard on a college degree. She asked where I worked and I told her. Then she offered that her son-in-law had just graduated from Mid-America Nazarene University. She had enjoyed the day there, but she had questions for me. Would I be willing to chat?
She told me that she was raised in the South as a good Catholic girl. Her next-door neighbors were Nazarenes. A fence divided the two homes, but the cultural gulf was even greater. The Nazarene girls lived a very restricted life, wearing odd clothing, no make-up and certainly could not go to the movie theater. Her own life seemed a bit odd to her as she attended a church that held mass in Latin, had multiple special events throughout the year, and Lent seemed like a time of terrible deprivation. She said the contrast was great between the two households and the fence between them was a marker of the great gulf. Every now and then one of the Nazarene girls would sneak over and ask what it was like inside the Tivoli theater. The oldest girl rebelled terribly against the restrictions of her parents. My Catholic friend said she hated having to eat fish on Fridays. And thus they lived in their own worlds. She was grateful to meet a Nazarene and ask if it was still the same today -- because it hadn't seemed that way over the weekend at graduation.
We all have our fences.
But we are all called to be sheep.
We are to be sheep who will graze in the green pastures of the Good Shepherd. Christians have the same Good Shepherd, and while we may express our faith in different ways it seems that there should be no fences in the green pastures. For far too long we have been critical of our differences and have forgotten to celebrate our commonalities. What could the Nazarene girls have learned from their Catholic neighbors and what could the Catholic neighbors have learned from the Nazarene girls? My new friend’s grandfather had been a Methodist minister. Her father eventually converted to Catholicism and she said he fasted better than any Catholic — because he really wanted to, and embraced the faith.
We are all a part of the body of Christ. We are not all the same, but just as the Apostle Paul reminds us that it would be odd if we were all the same part, so we must remember that it just may be that we fit together beautifully when we take down the fences. We may be different sheep, but we may make each other a bit healthier and stronger if we take some time to graze together.
Rejoice in the Lord and the blessing of being sheep.
Lord, thank you for the joy of being one of your sheep. Amen.