Friday, May 12, 2017

The Sheepfold (guest post)

The Sheepfold
-- Pastor Cook

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.   And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  John 10:14-18




This past Sunday the Church observed Good Shepherd Sunday. On this Sunday, once every year, we focus our attention on Christ our Shepherd and ourselves, his sheep. Because sheep were important livestock for mankind for thousands of years, the people of Jesus’ day knew a lot about sheep. Not many of us today have had experience with sheep, so let’s take a quick moment to educate ourselves about just one aspect of sheep – their need to belong to a sheepfold.


We learn the following from the website http://www.sheep101.info/201/behavior.html


Normal sheep behavior
“Changes in normal behavior can be an early sign of illness in sheep. The most obvious example of this relates to the sheep's most natural behavioral instinct, their flocking instinct. A sheep or lamb that is isolated from the rest of the flock is likely showing early signs of illness (unless it is lost). Even the last sheep through the gate should be suspected of not feeling well, especially if it is usually one of the first.”


When Jesus speaks about us as sheep, one of the things that he is teaching us is that we belong in community – we need to belong to a flock. Not belonging just in name, but in a real and meaningful way – through regular flesh and blood interaction. God has created us with a need to interact with other Christians. We need to be fellowshipping, praying, worshiping, and studying God’s Word together. When we don’t do those things, it is a sign of illness, just like it is for sheep. For sheep, if the illness is ignored, it could lead to death. For Christians, in a like manner, if the sickness is ignored, it can lead to spiritual death.


It is for this very reason that Jesus has come to be a Shepherd to his sheep. He desires that we all remain spiritually healthy by staying connected to him and to one another through the gifts he has given – his Word and Sacraments, his Church, and his People. Jesus laid down his own life so that we would not be separated eternally, from him, and from one another. As we listen to his voice he brings us into the sanctuary of the sheepfold. By his grace he allows us to gather together as the Body of Christ. Our attendance isn’t just something we “should do,” it is vital and necessary to our life together as Jesus’ little lambs. His voice calls to us all today, and it is our joy to listen!
--- Pastor Cook

God, gather us together,
increase in us faith toward you
and fervent love for each other.
Thank you for the gift of community.




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