You are a sheep. You are not the boss sheep or the most discerning sheep. Your sweaty wool is matted with broken twigs and sheep-poop like all the other sheep in the pen.
I’m also a sheep. I’m not the bravest sheep in the whole flock, and God knows I nervously skitter around the pen and bleat hopelessly when I hear the howls of the wolfpack at night. How will any of us survive in this God-forsaken valley? WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?!?!?
Our pastors and priests are sheep. They are not the holiest of all the sheep, nor are they the most wise. Like their brothers and sisters in the pen, they are vulnerable, willful, and prone to wander. They too get stuck in dangerous places; they also need the search and rescue by their Shepherd.
We are all sheep. I realize this is not the most inspiring of metaphors to begin a Brand New Year. Who in America is proud to be counted as a sheep these days? The whole idea is considerably unnerving. Ewe.
But if I *must* be a sheep (darn all that holy scripture) then I intend to be an especially astute and capable kind of sheep this year; a champion sheep that can take proper care of herself; a clean, poop-free, and remarkable sheep who can effectively influence the others in her fold. A super-sheep!
We are not super-sheep, saints. We are not very wise or brave or effective in our own sheep-strength. In fact, when we eventually tip over under the weight of our own dirty fleece, we literally can’t get ourselves back upright without outside help.
So what does it mean, people of a living God, that we are the not-so-super sheep of his pasture?
It means that it’s silly for us to trust in our own sheep instincts and abilities for even five minutes. It means that our natural inclinations are severely limited – utterly lacking – in light of what waits to devour us in the night. It also means that we can’t huddle up and place our hope in other shiny super-sheep, as winsome and inspiring as they appear to be!
Mostly, being a sheep in God’s pasture means that we belong, body and soul, entirely to God. We are His sheep – the sheep of His pasture – a flock entrusted into the eternal care of a most-brave, most-wise, and most-worthy Good Shepherd.
God’s chosen shepherd knows his sheep by name. He deals with each one as his Heavenly Father does: kindly and firmly; wisely and justly; with infinite patience and true compassion.
Our Good Shepherd, God’s own son, doesn’t grow weary or afraid in caring for his Father’s sheep. No, he vigilantly guards us with his own life. He rescues us from snakes and snares. He rights us when we can’t right ourselves, carefully binds up our wounds, and keeps watch so not one of his own goes missing.
You won’t go missing.
Because you belong to God, and you are not alone in the night even as a Brand New Year comes. You have a vigilant and worthy Good Shepherd who is near to you and yours even now.
So listen carefully for his voice and follow him. Look earnestly for his face and trust him. Stay close by and learn his words and his ways. For God’s chosen and faithful shepherd is your best help when the wolves begin to howl in the dark.
Shalom to you today, fellow not-so-super or shiny sheep. Take courage and comfort in your faithful Shepherd who knows your name and your frame, and even so, will never forsake you.