The Gospel reading for this Sunday is from John's Gospel. Jesus tells the disciples that he is the gate and he is the good shepherd. Shepherds and sheep figure prominently in bible stories and the church has adopted the crosier or shepherds crook as a symbol for the office of bishop. Throughout the history of the Church, before and after reformation
times, all the art work depicting bishops, cardinals and the like,
includes a shepherds crook, sometimes ornate, sometimes very simple. I am reminded today that only Jesus is the true good shepherd, and all of us who has a crosier as a symbol of our office, must carry it with humility and always with the way Christ carries it. Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, lays down his life for the sheep. We are rarely willing to do that, but we are always ready to parade in our finery and hoists the symbols of our office with great pride.
Today, I am reminded that all of us who have been called to be in charge of others has the opportunity to be a good, or a careless shepherd. We can be watchful or careless, present or distant, focused on ourselves or on the flock. We can follow as Christ did, offering who we are and or very life for others - or we can be very self-protective and let the flock be lost. The church is in one of those struggles today. Will we protect ourselves, our pride and control, or will we get out in the field offering our lives for the flock? My heart breaks over and over when I think about the many wonderful people in our church who have become sacrificial lambs for the saving of tradition. I think of the many that have been lost so that the church can save face and control.
My prayer today is that we can all hear where God is calling us, and know who we are responsible for. Dignity can not be the excuse for our failure to reach out. Difference can no longer be the reason to exclude. All of the flock is loved by God and called by name. We who are caretakers are invited to learn those names, and seek those who are lost, rescue those stuck in the brambles, revive those who have been sacrificed for purity - for this is the Christ work we are all called to together.