Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday. In the day’s reading (John 10:11-18), Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd…” While this metaphor is rich in cultural and spiritual content, the focus of Father Chuck’s sermon was the sound of the voice, and how the sheep respond when they hear it.
Sheep are difficult to herd, he points out. I once tried to help a friend herd three sheep back into their enclosure. A long, difficult task! If you have ever watched sheepdogs do their thing, it is clear those dogs work very hard to get the sheep where they need to go! The thing about sheep (and chickens!) is that they are followers. Once they connect the sound of your voice to food, shelter or care, the voice guides them where they need to go. Shepherds of long ago guided flocks of dozens up and down the rocky hillsides, leading (not herding) them to water, to safe pastures, away from harm.
Father Chuck also pointed out that there would be several herds at watering places; likely hundreds of intermixed sheep vying for water. How to get your own sheep out of the mix? You call them. They hear the sound of your voice, they follow that sound.
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his flock (John. 10:11). In Sunday School pictures, the shepherd David fights off wild animals to protect his sheep. This is the image Jesus offers, to make his point: I will die for you. You can trust me. When I call, you can follow with full confidence in my love for you.
In times of trouble, people often wonder, “How could God let this happen?” Feeling lost in the wilderness, it sometimes takes intense listening and attention to hear that voice that says, “I am with you, I love you, I will get you through this.” This voice is heard in the heart. In order to hear it, one must intently attune to the energy of the heart.
Faith is the quality of assurance that the call has been issued, that the heart will hear, that the ear, the mind and the will, in the appropriate time, will also hear the call, know the deeper truth, and gladly hearken to the voice of spirit. And embrace another sweet vision; the tiny lamb, tenderly carried home on the gentle shoulder of the Good Shepherd.