Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, Isaiah 66:7-14, 1 John 3:4-10, John 10:7-16
One of the most popular images of Jesus is The Good Shepherd. Shepherding was a central part of his culture, so his audience would have been familiar with how tended their flocks. He contrasted the role of the true shepherd – who would lay down his life for his sheep – to the role of a hired hand, someone likely to flee if things got dangerous. He also spoke of the thief and the wolf, who scatter and harm the sheep out of greed and selfishness. Jesus is confident his own flock will hear and know him and be led to safety.
Sheep are not bright, but the constancy of their shepherd helps them come to know him as a companion, protector, and guide. They won’t survive long without listening. We, on the other hand, are free to follow our shepherd or not, to listen or to ignore. How can we learn to discern our shepherd’s call the hired hands and thieves who may be wolves in shepherd’s clothing?
We can know his words. Reading the Gospels ourselves is different than trusting others to interpret scripture for us. Many a thief has used scripture to bilk well-meaning sheep from their money and eventually their faith. Regularly studying the Gospels and reliable sources of instruction help us understand them in context and teach us to recognize that voice.
Our shepherd will lead us to abundant life. Any message that leaves us feeling diminished or unloved by God is being delivered by an inept hired hand. Our shepherd will challenge and correct us for our own good, but only in loving ways. Christ always calls us out of the wilderness onto the path of life, not into a tangle of thorny condemnation.
Finally, we can pray. Not long, bleating prayers to fill up the silence, but quiet prayers which leave room for the divine voice to reveal itself. If we are out of practice it may take us a while to hear that voice, but we’ll know it when we do.
Comfort: Jesus calls us home with a familiar, consistent voice.
Challenge: Make a point of regular scripture reading and prayer time to train yourself to hear the voice of Christ.
Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for calling to me, even when I try not to hear. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been mislead by spiritual thieves or wolves?
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