Are Sheep Dumb?

Actually studies have shown that they are not!  They have an impressive ability to remember and recognize other sheep, they respond to facial expressions and can navigate complex mazes.  They’re not completely fearful or defenseless either.  They can kick hard, and even a ewe will charge if threatened.  That being said, sheep are herd animals.  They tend to follow the sheep in front of them. They may panic when separated from their fellow sheep because they are safest when they are together. This is not stupid behavior — it is simply realistic.  It is also sheep being true to their nature.

Where am I going with this?  I think there is a reason that Christians are referred to as a flock of sheep.

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”  Isaiah 40:11

We, too, are social animals.  We do best with others.  As Christians, we will be better nourished if we stay with our flock.  We will hear the Word and receive the sacraments.  There is less chance that we will go astray.  There is safety in numbers, and a good shepherd (which we certainly have) will guide us in the right path.  Fellow members will keep us accountable, and search us out when we wander.  The young and weak will be protected.

So don’t be a lone ranger Christian.  Be one of the sheep and follow the best Shepherd ever.  It’s not dumb, it’s smart — and it’s the way God created us.!

A Saintly Quote

“I am like the sick sheep that strays from the rest of the flock. Unless the Good Shepherd takes me on His shoulders and carries me back to His fold, my steps will falter, and in the very effort of rising, my feet will give way.”

St. Jerome

The Agnus Dei

“Agnus Dei” is a Latin phrase which literally means, “lamb of God.”  If you are a Lutheran (or Catholic or Anglican) you will know that it is a liturgical prayer addressed to Christ, our Savior, the lamb who was sacrificed for us. It is based upon these words spoken by John the Baptist:

   “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  John 1:29

It has been included in the liturgy since the 12th century, and used in choral pieces by many famous composers.  In our church we sing it before Holy Communion.  These are the words:

“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us! Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us! Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace!”

The themes are forgiveness and sacrifice, appropriate as we approach the table of the Lord and remember His last supper with the disciples.

For more on the liturgy go to these posts:

Learning from the Liturgy

The Laity and Liturgy

Liturgy as Prayer

 

 

Quiet and Peaceable Lives

Almost every Sunday in church, we pray for the leaders or our country, in the hope that their work will enable us to “live quiet and peaceable lives.” Isn’t that what most of us desire above all else? The thought comes directly from these verses in 1 Timothy:

urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 1:1-2

I’ve been reading and watching a good bit of historical fiction these days, and it has made me realize how fortunate we are in our country these days.  Most of us alive today have not experienced the day-to-day chaos of war.  We’ve never had to flee our homeland to escape persecution;  we’ve never been occupied by a foreign power;  we’ve not had to make hard choices about whether to resist or support an oppressor.  We don’t need to fear being taken off to a concentration camp, or worry about where our next meal is coming from.  This is a blessing!

When I think about true peace and serenity, the first thing to come to my mind is the Shepherd’s Psalm, number 23.

 

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley ,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Even if we ever do experience the worst, our Shepherd is with us.  He will provide for us that which is truly needful;  He will keep our soul safe.  Not even war or death can remove our peace in Him.  This is an even greater blessing.  Thanks be to God!
For more on Psalm 23, visit this post:

 

Little Lamb

This poem was written by Willian Blake(1757-1827), English poet and painter.  It is part of a larger collection which was his most famous work, Songs of Innocence and Experience.  Consider this one of my English major moments!  The Lamb, of course, is Jesus.

 

                      Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

For more on William Blake go to this post:

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

 

 

Looking for Lost Lambs

When my children were teenagers, they were highly annoyed that I always wanted to know where they were, who they were with and what they were doing.  I remember once our daughter, Kate, stayed after school for a club meeting without telling us.  When she didn’t come home on the bus, I called the school;  when there was no answer at the office, my husband drove there.  Her name was announced over the intercom and she came to the office, embarrassed and irate.  “Where did you think I would be?”  she asked.  “Well” we told her, “possibly abducted by a serial killer?”  We explained that although in that moment she found our concern irritating, it also assured her that if she had car trouble, got lost or truly  was abducted, her parents would not waste any time — we would be out looking for her and trying to make sure she was safe. Now, having become a mother herself, she understands.

Part of the Good News is that we all have a parent like that.  Jesus is our good shepherd and here’s what He tells us in one of the Parables:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  Luke 15:4-7

Maybe you feel you’ve strayed too far;  maybe you’re so lost you’re afraid you can’t find your way home;  maybe you think nobody cares.  That’s not true.  No matter where you are, now matter what you’ve done, the Good Shepherd cares and He’s out looking for you.  He loves you and so do I!

 

Go and Tell

Go Tell It On the Mountain is an African-American spiritual dating back to at least 1865.  It has been performed by many choirs and gospel singers over the years, and is usually considered a Christmas song because it centers around the birth of Jesus, and the first people to hear that good news — the shepherds.  It’s also been a favorite of my granddaughter, Katelyn, since she was a little girl.

For more about the shepherds in the Christmas story, go to these posts:

Why the Shepherds? Part 1

Why the Shepherds? Part 2

 

How Did He Know?

“A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats ”

Charles Spurgeon

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Being a Good Shepherd

“The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Not in the former but in the latter is the lack. The Church will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the Word of Jesus Christ because it knows that then it will be guided, not according to human wisdom and human conceit, but by the Word of the Good Shepherd.

 

The question of trust, which is so closely related to that of authority, is determined by the faithfulness with which a man serves Jesus Christ, never by the extraordinary talents he possesses. Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, whom himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the Word.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For more quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer see these posts:

Loyal to the End — A Quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Sin

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Waiting

The Good Shepherd

Years ago my husband gave a Via de Cristo retreat talk entitled Study.  He spoke about the many ways we study without even realizing it, and one of those ways is through art.  He said that when he was a boy there was a huge painting of Christ, the King on the church wall behind the altar.  He gazed at that picture week after week during worship and it’s now deeply engrained in his mind.  It has influenced the way he sees and thinks about Jesus.

I realized that he was not the only one to have that experience.  My childhood church had the same sort of design, but the picture I saw every week was Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  In it, Jesus carries a lamb, and there are other sheep around Him.  I have come to believe this is why, for me, the image of the Good Shepherd has deeply colored my experience and understanding of Christ.  When I imagine myself meeting Jesus, this is the image that comes to my mind.

Christ the King depicts Jesus in His glory, surrounded by clouds, a crown on His head, with upraised arms. This is Jesus as God.  As the Good Shepherd, Christ appears to be very gentle and approachable. This is Jesus the man.  One emphasizes power and holiness, the other love and compassion.  Both are equally valid and parts of the same person, but each can influence our emotions and understanding of Jesus.

So, I’m interested.  Readers and authors, what is your dominant image of our Lord?  Is there a picture in your mind?  Where does it come from?