I don’t often use sermon titles as blog post titles but I am this week because I can’t think of any clever variation on it and I like it. I have added the addition of an exclamation point however so I guess that might be considered a variation I suppose.
This Sunday we looked at several of the many, many passages of scripture that deal with sheep and shepherds. As I have mentioned before, sheep and shepherds are frequently used as metaphors or symbols in the Bible (there are lots of stories that simply have sheep and shepherds as characters in them too). The usual tack taken is how we are like sheep and need a shepherd. I have preached sermons in that vein a number of times but this Sunday I felt a very different direction was where the Holy Spirit wanted us to go; namely that we are all shepherds.
This notion comes from taking the definition of a shepherd that is found in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” and applying it to 1 John 3:16 “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” It isn’t a syllogism per se but in this case I chose to define anyone who is willing to lay down their life for another as a shepherd; a stretch perhaps but not a very large one.
The thing that makes this interesting and worth spending some time with is the further implications of the idea that we, as shepherds and people who love, are willing to do whatever it takes for those we love, including death. If we are willing to die for someone are we also willing to help them with the material things of life? John says we should in the very next verse of 1 John “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 John 3:17 NRSV) And if we are willing to do that, then shouldn’t we also be willing to help people see themselves in the best light possible? Should we not be the kind of people who don’t allow our friends and other loved ones to characterize themselves unfairly and inaccurately?
There is a thing that many of us do by which we describe ourselves in absolute terms taken from a particular action, for example, after doing something foolish we say, “I am a fool” rather than “I did a foolish thing.” This trick of language takes a particular action and turns it into a quality we possess . . . nearly always in error. When we hear someone describe themselves in these terms * we instantly hear the error but how frequently do we take the time to help our friend see this error for what it is? This kind of language can be immensely destructive and we owe it to our friends to defend them, even from themselves.
Knox Presbyterian Shepherds all
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Shepherds All
I hope you find value in one or both of these sermons. As always I would be delighted to discuss any of this further through the comments or any other avenue we can both be on.
* I almost wrote, “. . . when we hear someone applying this totalizing narrative to themselves . . .” so I guess I’m learning self control 🙂