This week we look at, two I am sayings – ‘I am the door of the sheep’ and ‘I am the good shepherd’.
Jesus presents the image of the sheepfold as a place of safety and security for the sheep. So long as those tasked with caring for the flock enter by the door, the sheep can come and go in peace and discover life in all its abundance. Last week was Mothering Sunday and none of us has been to our local church, let alone our mother church – at least not to the physical place, to gather with others.
This last year will have challenged all our assumptions about what it means to ‘go’ to church. Some will have loved the new ways of doing things, whereas others might be thankful for technology, but have not felt this feels like life in abundance.
Some will have felt left out by the new technologies, and others who had been cut off from the worshipping life for years have discovered a new connection. As we begin to think about what our future life as people of God will be like, we need to take all these things into consideration. Yet however we shape things, and whatever form it takes, we should remember that Church, physical or online, is about being where people can gather in order to find sanctuary and refreshment, and can discover that life overflowing with possibility.
The sheep sense that safety because they trust the shepherd. We remember in the words of Psalm 23 that the shepherd guides the sheep to green pastures and still waters; what is more they comfort the sheep through the darkest valleys. This is why Jesus can offer us that safety and sanctuary, despite everything we might be feeling, because we can put our trust in him as our shepherd. He desires us to experience those green pastures and still waters – life in all its fullness. But he will also accompany us through those dark valleys and loves us enough to have laid down his life for us.
That can sound good in theory, but the reality is not always as easy. How do we know Jesus with us through those valleys, or guiding us to those places of rest and refreshment? One way is through other people. Hopefully in all our lives we have known someone that, if it came to it, would fight for us and defend us. A family member or friend who is always there when we need them those people who have love for us that always seek the best for us, even at their own expense, just as the shepherd cares for the sheep.
As we think of those people who have that shepherd-like care for us. May we also know for whom we are called to be shepherds – that is not just a calling for ordained ministers, but for the whole people of God. We are all called to provide loving care for others, that others may know the safety, sanctuary and rest Jesus offers, that they may discover life in all its fullness. The sheep didn’t go to the sheepfold just to huddle together and shut out the world, rather they went for rest and nourishment, in order to go out again the next day.
As we continue to hope for days of physically gathering together, may we not rush back to our buildings in order to huddle together and shut out the world, but rather may we ensure that they are places of sanctuary, rest and nourishment in order that we may go out into the world to offer the love and life of Jesus to our world.
Rev Nik Wooller
21st March 2021