Circuit 13 & 15 Joint Winkel – St. John 10:1-10
In my fourth year of seminary, Dr. Warneck, gave us his infamous handout the first day of his Pastoral Theology class, which probably totaled half a ream of paper; nearly 250 pages for each student. The packet was generally a random collection of articles and handouts that he had collected over the years and deemed appropriate to pass out to us for our own use.
One such insert was a proposed outline for the pastor’s work schedule; an average day which ran about 12 hours, included time for personal study and prayer, as well as office work, home visits, sermon and Bible study prep, and just about everything else you can imagine. The schedule also included among other things an annual retreat to work on hymns and sermon outlines for the coming year, and the reading of at least two books a month.
One can only imagine what a first year seminarian would have thought at receiving such a schedule.
Perhaps they would have decided that being the sheep was better than striving to be the noble task of being a shepherd.
After all, sheep have all the fun; sheep run and play and do what they pleases. Sheep come to church, sit in the pews, sing the hymns they like and fidget during the ones they don’t like. Sheep may or may not listen with full attention to the sermon, and yet will still come through the door at the end and compliment the message. If sheep stay home, no one much fusses; if sheep wander away, everyone rolls their eyes and moves on. And if the sheep should so desire to come back, they are welcomed with open arms.
But the shepherd is quite the different story. Not everyone wants to be the shepherd.
Shepherds have to work; not just one hour one day a week, but shepherds have to work every day, because missing a day only means working twice as hard the next three days. While I can’t think of anyone who keeps up with that 4th year Pastoral Theology schedule, it would indeed be fair to say that it is not for lack of things to do. Shepherds work most days, and think about work all the other days.
Oh to be sheep once more.
And that is exactly what we try to do, is it not? Do we not look at the life of the sheep and try to mingle it with the life of a shepherd?
Sheep take the summer off; so why can’t I? We’ll still have church each week, but don’t expect much more than the bare minimum the rest of the week. Sheep get to run and play on Saturday, so who is to say I am to be bound to a laptop? Sheep roll around and get dirty and no one says a word, so why can’t I do the same?
And indeed, who is to say you cannot? Wellness demands time for rest and play; studies have even determined that those who rest and play regularly, actually work harder in the end.
All the perfect means to justify the sheep-like tendencies of the shepherds.
But that is the pitfall is it not? Shepherds who look like sheep are soon indistinguishable from the sheep. Shepherds who slack in their studies will soon have nothing to offer to their sheep when the wolves come prowling around, seeking someone to devour. Shepherds who look like sheep, soon are no more useful on Sunday morning in deciphering Law and Gospel than sheep.
But shepherds are like sheep in this respect; in that both sheep and shepherds need to hear the words of the Good Shepherd, who comes to atone not just for the sins of the sheep, but also the sins of the shepherd. The Good Shepherd comes and lays down His life for shepherds who falter, for shepherds who fall, for shepherds who in the end look an awful lot like sheep, because they are still sheep in need of a shepherd.
The Good Shepherd comes to you this day and every day and delivers the same words and promises to you that you deliver to His sheep. There are soft pastures for you to rest in; there is still water for you to drink from; when you walk through your valley of the shadow of death, you do not walk alone, for the Good Shepherd walks with you. There is forgiveness, life and salvation for you, just as there is for those you shepherd.
Shepherds are not sheep, but shepherds get the same body and blood, the same certainty of forgiveness, the same Savior that sheep get.
As we head into the summer months, take this time to refresh yourself in the cool waters that the Savior provides; bask in the glow of the sunshine as opposed to the glow of the laptop; feast on the goodness that summer provides to one and to all.
But do not forget that you are shepherds, and that there is still work to be done in the harvest field. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy: Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. And again; Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season. And again: Continue in the things you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Remain sharp shepherds of the flocks; for sheep still need a shepherd to protect them; sheep still need a shepherd to point them to the same Jesus that the shepherds look to.