Sheep, Shepherds, and Judgment

by Arthur W. Anderson

It is Judgment Sunday. The Associate Pastor is preaching and he takes his text from Ezekiel 34. He is talking about sheep and shepherds. He is a very perceptive as he retrieves these ancient images for us in our high-tech milieu. Dumb sheep, he allowed, were not palatable models for us. Neither could we identify with tough, leather-faced, shrewd shepherds who watched their herds around the clock. Yet it was important to remember that straying sheep can be lost and victimized, a reality we, too, experience. And even if shepherds do not wear haloes, they are leaders who care about their sheep and know them so intimately that they do not have to number them.

This sermon began with high promise. Then, while trying to illustrate his subject from a reading, the young preacher got derailed. He stopped abruptly and with an embarrass' chuckle said, "Let's start all over again." We chuckled with him as he, in talking about the dumb shepherd, pointed to his own noggin. We laughed with love and understanding. He had us all the rest of the way. What happened illustrated the point even better than the reading.

I am glad that shepherds do not wear haloes. I am also glad that preachers (pastoral shepherds) make an occasional public faux pas, thus allowing God's grace to come chuckling through. It also makes it easier for us dumb sheep to identify with The Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, knows them one by one, and calls them by name. Instinctively, we recognize that voice!