Sheep cannot graze in the same pasture all year, unless it is
a small flock in a large, lush pasture. Sheep can overgraze,
eating until they consume all the grass, including the root. By
then erosion and hunger threaten their survival. A wise shepherd
moves his flock to the next safe grazing land by season.
In places like Israel and the American Rocky Mountains, the
high elevations may green up for summer but quickly dry up
or become snowbound before autumn. The careful shepherd
leads the flock through narrow, steep passages in order to reach
the abundance of the next green pasture. This transit is full of
risks: a stumble can turn into a fall; wandering from the path
can lead to becoming lost from the rest of the flock, with deadly
implications for each sheep.
So it is for all of us; none of us escapes the narrow passages
from one chapter of life to the next without the need for the
divine shepherd’s leading. We often cannot envision the right
path until we realize we have been found in God’s presence
where love casts out our crippling fears. In these valleys of death
and shadow we are invited, with saints like John of the Cross,
to be held and led by God’s hand where and when we cannot
see our own way.
Our own wandering endangers us. The fattest, wooliest
sheep is at the greatest danger of being upended on uneven
terrain. Such a “cast” sheep becomes easy prey in that circumstance—
helpless and lost from the flock. The good shepherd has
a rod to fight the predator and his crook to right the upended
sheep. Our divine shepherd seeks to save us from our enemies
and from ourselves.
Lord, come find us with your love when we can’t see our way. Amen.
Three of the texts use the image of shepherd and sheep. Psalm 23 and John 10 picture the familiar relationship of trust that sheep exhibit toward the shep- herd. The shepherd places himself between the dependent sheep and the aggressive enemy to ward off destruction and exploitation. John 10 and 1 Peter 2 introduce the costly price paid for protection. The sheep’s safety comes with immense and undeserved sacrifice. In 1 Peter 2, the shepherd’s sacrifice makes possible the return of wayward sheep who have wandered away from the shepherd’s protection.
• Read Acts 2:42-47. How has joining with other believers in prayer, fellowship, and study strengthened your faith?
• Read Psalm 23. What narrow passages of life have you navigated? Upon whom did you depend during that time?
• Read 1 Peter 2:19-25. When have you encountered unjust suffering? What redemptive value did it hold for you?
• Read John 10:1-10. “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved.” How have you allowed Jesus to be the gate to your discipleship?
Respond by posting a prayer.