Sunday, May 7, 2017
Shepherds and Guardians
I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
This passage deals with suffering, both Jesus’ and ours. It is in our participation with Christ that we begin to understand suffering. Jesus didn’t suffer and die so that everything in life would be easy, but that we might participate with him in the journey of life.
Jesus suffered so that we could be set free from the power of sin and death. He is the good shepherd who does everything that he can to bring us back into a relationship with him. We are healed by his wounds. The good shepherd came, sought us out and led us back to that place of safety where he could protect our relationship with him. He is the shepherd, the one who seeks and protects his sheep, but he is also the guardian. The word guardian is the one from which we have created the word “Bishop.” He becomes an overseer who takes responsibility for our complete and total healing, creating a pathway for us to become holy, just as he is holy.
Today will mark commencement at the Seminary where I work. Students are finishing their study, but just commencing with another phase of life and/or ministry. While ministry takes many different forms, the root call remains the same, and that is to follow Jesus into God’s mission in this world. We become participants together with Jesus Christ, who is our good shepherd and guardian.
Christ, the good shepherd has become the pattern for those who are called to serve in ministry (and for all us). Just as Jesus was willing to suffer and care for his lost sheep, so we too must be willing to care for the sheep. Sheep are not always smart and there will be challenges to bringing them in, but Jesus left the ninety-nine to go find the one. To what lengths will we go for the one? It seems that we become easily discouraged and give-up if someone doesn’t respond quite quickly. The good shepherd has been and continues to be long-suffering, waiting and loving.
The role of “guardian” or “overseer” is another that Christ performs and to which we are called. The language reminds us of someone who protects, or prevents danger. David, the Psalmist, certainly believed that this was true for he often went to God and cried out for protection. There is a preventive role which needs to be played by those who are more mature in their faith — those who have been walking with the Lord over a longer period of time. They are the ones who should be looking out for others and recognize their responsibility in pointing out dangers to those who may not understand what is lurking. It’s the parent who warns the child of the hot stove, or makes sure they’re always in their car seat. The child may not be happy about the restrictions but they are for their own good. The role of the guardian is the same spiritually. They are to provide direction and keep others from falling into dangerous places. Guardians take the time to disciple the next generation, pouring out what they have learned so that others can flourish.
We need many more who will answer the call to shepherd and guardian. Leaving everyone to their own devices and hoping that in some way they may find their way to God is not what the Good Shepherd expected. Just as God the Father sent Jesus to suffer and die so that we could have life, so we are to enter into the world to seek out those who need desperately to be saved. Our willingness to bring others to Christ reflects our participation in Christ. And then we take on the role of guardian, providing protection for those who have been placed within our care.
Not everyone’s call is to formal ministry, but God places within our lives those whom we are called to touch. It may be friends, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, whom God has placed within our sphere of influence. Follow Jesus and bear the burden for those whom he loves.
Lord, today I am overwhelmed by the sense of your love and leading. Amen.