1 John 3:16-24
Dear, poor little sheep, did you get lost...again? Did you wander away from the flock? From the protection of our shepherd? Poor little sheep, don't get so down on yourself, how could you have known what dangers lie over the mountain? How could you have know the rocky and steep terrain that is up ahead? Poor little sheep, do not wallow in shame, do not lose yourself in despair, because the Shepherd is never so far away. Our shepherd knows us sheep, knows our good parts and bad, our strengths and weaknesses, our shepherd even knows we are prone to wander. That is why the Shepherd is always moving, always searching and always finding us – the wayward and forgetful ones.
Dear, hungry little sheep, are you wondering why the same plot of land has stopped giving you food? The same plot you have been grazing at for days, you have munched it clean, there is nothing left for you here. Hungry little sheep, you do not know how to move on, do you. You do not know where the next field of lush, delicious grass can be found for you only see what is right in front of you and cannot bear to look around into the unknown. Dear, hungry little sheep, raise your head, see the vast horizon filled with green? The Shepherd knows all too well what this life could bring, what the world could offer, if only, if only we dared to look on this world with humility – not judgment, with awe – not fear, with desire – not dread. All the meadows, the fields, the mountains, the waterfalls... they are for you. Your Shepherd brought you here to eat, to be healthy, to live. Do not sit paralyzed in fear of what is to come next, our shepherd is always leading us in green meadows, always providing for us – the hungry and fearful ones.
Dear, stingy little sheep, why do hold your God-given gifts to yourself? Why do you fight against the way God has made you – to give wool that keep feet warm on winter nights, to give meat to hungry stomachs, to be the livelihood for those that have no other way. Dear, stingy little sheep, our shepherd keeps us and tends us and loves us, so that we will keep and tend and love each other. Give it all way, your gifts, your resources, yourself, give it away. It is no good to keep it locked and hidden and clutching what never belonged to us in the first place. The shepherd has given us everything we need to fully love one another, if we only dare to let go. Dear, stingy little sheep, trust that the Shepherd will always renew you, every time you give a part of yourself, our gentle shepherd brings us to cool waters, and fills us up every time. The shepherd loves us and our God-given gifts, and the shepherd will show us how to let go, even us – the clutching and territorial ones.
Dear lonely little sheep. Are you left grazing outside the flock? Has life pushed you out, has darkness closed you out? Dear, lonely little sheep you know you were made to be with the flock, we were made to move and live and graze together, it is not good to be alone. Yet, the loneliness can be unavoidable, the pain of separation, the fear of solitude sneaks up on us sheep. The shepherd keeps ushering us back together, after fall outs, after hear break, even after the sting of death, the shepherd gently and lovingly brings us back into the fold, because we were made for the flock. Reach out for each other, cry out for another, trust the flock – even though it is not perfect, and we do not always graze in peace – trust that the shepherd will keep teaching us how to be together so that we all can be apart of the flock and all can know this shepherd. Our shepherd will always connect us with each other, because we are better grazing together, even us, the lonely and isolated ones.
Dear, little sheep, we are led by the good shepherd, who does not push us or led us to places of danger – rather this good shepherd leads us on right paths, the way may seem foolish at times, but we trust this shepherd, because this shepherd is so, so good. Dear, little sheep, don't you know you are loved with a wild, unrelenting love? Dear little sheep this love is clear, we know this love because the shepherd laid down his life for us. Our shepherd is not lost, is not hungry, is not selfish or fearful – our shepherd loves with wisdom, loves by providing, and loves us in all our wandering and selfish ways.
Because, precious little sheep, this life with the shepherd was never about being the best sheep, it was never about being an independent sheep, it was never about you at all. Precious little sheep, we are known by the shepherd, we are loved by the shepherd, so now we can give it all away.
Because, precious little sheep, it was about the shepherd all along.