The story is told about the minister who asked a member of his flock why he had not been to church for the past six weeks. "Well," said the man, "that last sermon of yours was so good, it kept me going for six weeks!"
One recognized crisis in our churches today, perhaps the biggest, is the non-attendance of the flock. Members of our church congregations and even our families have become part of the "unengaged church". Commitment has strayed. But despite our unworthiness, Jesus continues to call us to service.
I use the sheep metaphor in this article because it may help shed light on our relationship with the Shepherd. Perhaps like Peter at the tomb (John 20:1-9), we may be hesitant because of human weakness or past sin. But the heart of Jesus is still LOVE.
Jesus is trying to break through to us in this post-resurrection time. After-Easter time is all about listening to the Shepherd calling to us each day. It is almost evening and the Lord is walking with us to Emaus. Are our hearts burning?
A Saskatchewan shepherdess (true story) relates how she first started working with sheep as a summer job while attending University. She slept-in the first morning until 5:00 a.m. and the sheep were gone astray. It took a while to find them.
In time she learned that they recognized her voice and would follow, coming in at night to shelter. The next year she sent a recording of her voice to be played before she returned so the sheep would know her. It worked!
It is evening, now, in some of our churches and some of our lives. The flocks gather from the pasture to settle for the night. We do not fear what the night will bring because our Shepherd lies down as the gate between us and the dangers of the night.
We have done one thing right! Ecumenically. Our Christian denominations have found THE GATE to the fold. We enjoy the safety of a common shelter from the wolf. "I am the gate of the sheepfold" (John 10:7), Jesus said.
Earlier in John's gospel Jesus said, "The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep and leads them out". How simple it is. If we can but listen for the Shepherd's voice each day,
"I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The Shepherd will lead us out to pasture in green grasses and fresh water daily, if we are attuned to His voice.
Our lives can be so much simpler, filled with grace and love, if we listen more frequently to the recording of the shepherd's voice. It is not so hard to find, to recognize. It is almost evening and our hearts should be burning as we break bread with our special guest.