Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Good Shepherd

If you know me, you may know that for the past 6 years I have volunteered at a week long retreat for middle schools at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina.  I remember how exhausted I was after the first year I was there, but also how fully renewed I was in my love of youth ministry, in my own formation, and how much it helped me on my own spiritual journey.  A group of around 18 volunteers all gather to work this event (JYP) year after year to help guide and mentor youth from around the country.  Little do they know the amzing impact they have on the lives of every "adult" figure there!  They are the true teachers and I am blessed to be a part of this week.  I only bring this up, because today I wanted to talk about a lesson that I learned this past year.
The theme for the week was prayer.  We really focused on different ways to pray and what it means.  Naturally, Jesus was a prime example used to show how we pray and the importance of prayer.  In these examples, the reference to Jesus being the Good Shephard would constantly show.  Something we all hear all the time.  The symbol on the front of the altar at church is...The Good Shephard.  Children's Formation classes are called, Catechesis of the Good Shephard.  The Good Shephard.  It is a very very common theme for us at church.  Since we all grew up in rural 4th century BC Middle Eastern cities, we all agree on what it means to be a shepherd, right?
In today's society, we are just not that accustomed to hearing that term outside of church, shepherd.  When you think of that word in todays terms, what do you picture?
something like this?
or this...
maybe this...?

If I had to take a guess, I would guess that a lot of people had images simliar to this in the minds.  If they didn't, well they probably do now.  In today's society, this is as close as we come to shepherding in real life.  So why on earth is our Savior Jesus Christ refered to as the Good Shepherd?  Does he chase us down to amek sure we are on the right track?  Use a large stick or whip to keep us in line?  Someone that we are scared off and that is why we don't want to wonder off?

These images are not of shepherding, but of herding.  A herder is someone who would walk behind and keep the animals in line but pushing them and literally "herding" them in certain directions to get them to go where the wanted.  This is not and should not be the image we have when we think of the Goof Shephard.  It probably is not, but still, this concept of what it means to be a true shepherd may not be the easiest to understand.

I had a friend who went to school in Scotland who explained to me what shepherding truly was and how the shepherds worked on the other side of the sea.  The shepherds lead the sheep.  They stayed with the sheep, lived among them, slept outside with them, was always there for them.  The shepherd was a friend to the flock and therefore the flock trusted them.  This was how they lead.  The shepherd knew his sheep and the sheep knew the shepherd.  When they would travel, the shepherd would walk in front and guide them and the sheep followed out of trust and of love for the shepherd.  If one wondered off, the shepherd would stop everything to go get the one that wondered off.  
Who is your shepherd?

~Psalms 23:1-6~
The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not  want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
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 goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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