Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mini-Sermon on Luke 15:1-7

I've been thinking about border collies this week.

It was inevitable, given the recent gospel reading: the Good Shepherd. I've always loved the Parable of the Good Shepherd. I guess it's because I'm a sinner, and it is a source of both comfort and hope that when I stray, the Shepherd will always come after me.

So I heard the passage and I started thinking about border collies. I'd recently read Jon Katz's latest book, "Dog Days," about his sheep farm and the border collies he raises and trains to herd the sheep. He also has aa steer named Elvis and a little donkey named J├ęsus, among other creatures, but those are stories for another sermon on another day.

Border collies are magnificent, black and white balls of nonstop single-minded energy that round up the sheep and go find the lost ones. This is great for sheepherding, but these are not dogs for around children. They tend to herd the children. I my experience, kids don’t much like that.

After reading about the border collies, I wondered, "Why doesn't that Good Shepherd get Himself a good border collie to go after the lost ones? Then He wouldn't have to tromp all over the countryside in the cold and the rain in search of me when I go astray." I'm sure I'm not the only one who goes astray, so the Shepherd might get pretty tired. The hills are many. A dog would be a help.

Then it dawned on me, sitting in the chapel. I looked around. We're the border collies! All of us studying for ministry. We're Christ's border collies, helping Him to shepherd all the lost souls.

No, think about it: when we vest we wear black and white, and we need to be trained...

Just like the border collies, we need the firm hand of the Shepherd, because we could get too overexcited and nip at the sheep, or send them in the wrong direction. We might get a little lost, too, because border collies are, after all, only human. We need the Shepherd's guidance.

That got me thinking some more about the nature of border collies, and it reminded me of that movie that was so enchanting about a decade ago - "Babe." It was all about a runty little pig that aspired to herd sheep, just like the border collies who were his surrogate parents on his master's farm. The border collies thought the sheep were all pretty stupid, and they treated them pretty roughly to get the sheep to go where they belonged.

I'm not sure the Shepherd would want me to be that kind of helper. But Babe the pig approached the sheep differently, respectfully, politely. The sheep, once they got over the shock of this different treatment, responded by doing what the pig gently requested.

Perhaps we are called to assist the Good Shepherd in this way. Not by nipping, not by harshness, but by a loving, gentle, polite, respectful guiding voice, one that offers those we pastor the same hope of Good Shepherd’s insistent, loving care that we have been privileged to experience.

There are worse things to hope for as we answer the Shepherd's call.

No comments: