Monday, April 30, 2007

The Good Shepherd

Many have shared sermons and stories inspired by this past Sunday’s gospel lesson. While I think that Mad Priest’s wins the prize (not sure what the contest is, but surely he should be treated to one of those fruit-glazed dessert things for best ending) and PaulW’s (found in the comments at MP’s) deserves at least a second, I offer the following:
And here is the scene. Over here is a mother sheep who has lost her baby at birth. Over there is a lamb that has lost his mother in the process of being given life. But sheep are difficult animals. A sheep will not take a lamb that is not its own. And so we have the case of a mother sheep full of the milk that will not nourish her baby and no baby to feed. And we have a lamb, hungry for life-giving nourishment and no milk to drink. Soon the motherless baby will starve to death.

It is a scene of abundance and scarcity all at once.

And this is what the good shepherd must do. Now this is going to be a bit graphic but it is the truth. To reconcile this moment of tragedy, the shepherd takes the lamb that has died and slits its throat. Then the good shepherd washed the living lamb in the blood who died. Out of death will come life. The lamb who died gives life to the lamb that is motherless. Now the mother sheep will accept this new baby, this baby washed in the blood of her own.

The shepherd then said, "That is what I know about the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd as well."

For us who are washed in the blood of the lamb and who are part of the flock of the Good Shepherd, that is all we need to know. We, who were separated from God by sin and death, have now been given new life. The Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God are one and the same - the one who saves, Jesus the Christ.


When I recently heard this story, I paused at “And we have a lamb, hungry for life-giving nourishment and no milk to drink.” I expected but heard no mention of the need of the mother sheep, who must have been full of the void of no longer hearing, feeling, and touching the life of her newborn lamb and, at the same time, must have been bursting with the fullness and pain of tender teats swollen with milk. If you will pardon the crossing of gender roles, this story made me think of a couple of male priests. One is the person I know only in cyberspace as Father Jake, who recently wrote movingly about the death of Mike Crew and presiding at his funeral in Boys of Hall. The other is J’s brother (see The 33rd Stone below), with whom I recently made the long journey to visit the graves of J and his mother, who has his own stories to tell of funerals and lost souls.

It seems to me that many priests and other ministers -- ordained or not, male or female -- sometimes recognize and minister to lost sheep as a result of the blood of their own losses which the Good Shepherd sprinkles on those who most need to be nurtured by their compassion and love.
It’s a miracle how this happens, including how any of us survive to breathe and smell and ache for the needs of others or to be fed ourselves while others seem to perish. Thanks be to the priests and ministers, all who mourn, and those who live again.

3 comments:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

WOW! You know I'm going to use that story in a sermon sometime soon.

You write like a very angel. Thanks for this wonderful blog. I intend to be a frequent visitor.

Missy said...

"...sometimes recognize and minister to lost sheep as a result of the blood of their own losses which the Good Shepherd sprinkles on those who most need to be nurtured by their compassion and love."
I really loved this. Very nice. Thank you for sharing.

Share Cropper said...

Klady, I read this when you posted, but on rereading tonight, I know now why I love the Baptist hymn , "Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?" It's the only song I can play on the piano after so many years - well, that and Whispering Hope. Oh, I see the connection in my life already. Thanks.