The Shepherd of the sheep

A talk for the Patronal service of The Parish of The Good Shepherd 

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Last year my husband took me and our children to his friend’s farm. I was really excited. Not only were we going to have a bit of an adventure, we were going to see his brand new lambs that had just been born. I hadn’t met a real life shepherd before. I’d only seen the glossy ones that they show on BBC1’s country file.

The weather was typically British, the wind was whistling, the rain was coming down but my family and I were so excited to be on the tuffty Saddleworth hills we didn’t feel the rain or the wind. We squelched up a soggy hill and met Dave the shepherd. 
He was rosy cheeked with his crook in his hand. He was well weathered, his clothes were accessorised with the landscape, grass stuck out of his boots, hay on his jumper, dried mud was his sunscreen. It seemed like the weather had no impact on him, he was there to do his duty and look after his beloved sheep and their new lambs.

As we entered the first field Dave called out to his sheep, the sheep recognised his voice immediately. They trotted up to us and mulled around their feeding trough. He fed them and they were a blur of chocolate and white noise. After they were distracted with the food, Dave led us to see the lambs. They were beautiful, it was amazing to watch them trot around on wobbly legs.
Dave the shepherd had a great system of identifying the new born lambs. As soon as a lamb was born he would put a plastic red coat on them. He explained that by identifying the lambs he could see if any had become separated from the flock and their mothers.

Whilst we were walking around his farm we saw a bright speck of red. The little plastic coat of the small lamb was blowing in the increasingly rough weather. Dave suddenly changed his walking pace and made the uneven, beveled ground look like freshly laid tarmac. He effortlessly scaled the hill until he reached the tiny lamb tucked down low in the long grass sheltering from the wind. He softly scooped up the lamb, tucked it under his arm and located the mother and reunited them. The mum and lamb baared at each other in acknowledgement and relief. 

In today’s readings we heard Jesus saying that he is the gate for the sheep, he is the leader, the good shepherd. Jesus says that whoever enters the gate through him is saved and will find the pasture that is laid out for us. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and he loves us deeply and cares for us like a devoted shepherd to his flock.

Like Dave the saddleworth shepherd, who’s sheep recognised him by his voice, Jesus says to us, “I know my own, and my own know me”. When we hear Jesus’s voice we follow him, when he calls us by name, when he calls us to know him, we are placed in the best friendship we could ever have, a love from a shepherd who can withstand any weather, any terrain, and any situation.
Jesus also searches for us when we become lost, like Dave the shepherd who marked his lambs with little jackets, Jesus can find us easily when we become distant, when we have left the pasture. Jesus actively looks for those who have gone astray, or those who are indeed lost. 

In the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus again says he is the Good shepherd, he looks for his sheep that who are lost and lays them on his shoulders, his shoulders that bore the weight of our sins as he carried his cross.

The act of laying the sheep on his shoulders and carrying it back is one of complete love and devotion. Maybe we can reflect on the time that Jesus had found us when we were lost?

Here in Ashton, we are the parish of the Good Shepherd so what does that mean for us? 

Children, could you help me please? 

What is a Good Shepherd like?

Caring, devoted, kind, resilient, committed, strong, loving, patient, selfless, 
By being like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, this is how we tend to God’s people, this is how we keep going in times of trial, this is how we stay faithful as a flock to our Good Shepherd, so that others can see him through us.

Jesus has an unconditional, equal love for every person. Jesus spreads a message of love, not just for the holy, but for everyone, regardless of their sins and their past. Jesus calls us by name so we can follow his voice through the gate into his kingdom. Jesus calls us to his table where we can share in the Eucharistic gifts his gave us. There is always an empty seat at his table waiting for those who are lost, who are yet to be found, who have wandered away from the flock. And like dave the saddleworth shepherd, Jesus searches in any weather, at any time of the day to find those who are in need of his fatherly care, our good shepherd the guardian of our souls.


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