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The Good Shepherd

John 10: 11-18

Shortly after Christmas, I noticed a jackdaw hopping around the vicarage garden with a broken wing.  I thought it would quickly fall prey to a fox or something but every day, there it was hopping about. 

So I called a wildlife hospital and asked them if they could send somebody to catch it and fix its wing.  They said they had nobody available but if I could catch it and bring it into the hospital they would happily put it out of its misery.

I asked them how one went about catching a jackdaw, albeit on with a broken wing.  Every time I went out into the garden it would hop furiously into the thick laurel bushes.  It could hop very quickly and it had a large beak compared to the size of the rest of its body.  They suggested throwing a towel over it.  Bring it in, they said, and we will be able to put it out of its misery.

Catching the jackdaw turned into one of those things I never got round to.  And it is still there.  It still can’t fly.  It hops around the vicarage garden.  These days it has started to get used to my presence.  It doesn’t hop away quite so soon and quite so fast.

I suppose it has learned to trust me. I never do it any harm and on the plus side I often drop food intended for the chickens on the vicarage lawn.

I like the fact that the jackdaw is starting to trust me.  It feels like the relationship of total mistrust that a wild animal has for a human being has started to mellow ever so slightly.

The non-verbal trusting relationships we have with domesticated animals give us so much joy.  I wonder why that is. Why do we yearn to experience complete trust with an animal with which we cannot really communicate verbally?  Are we just looking for somebody or something that will trust us?  And somebody or something that we can trust in turn?

Most of what I know about sheep probably comes from the Bible.  I know that sheep will follow a good shepherd if the shepherd calls.  Presumably this is because the sheep know the shepherd leads them to green pastures.  And keeps them protected from wild animals. 

Jesus uses the image of a good shepherd to explain to his followers the kind of relationship they are being offered with God through him. 

It is a relationship based on trust.  You can trust me, because like the good shepherd, I lay down my life for you.

That is why we know Jesus is the one, the Messiah, the son of God, the saviour of mankind, the one we can instinctively trust.  We can trust him because of the crucifixion.

So when we come to the Eucharistic table and remember the sacrifice the good shepherd made for us, we renew our trust in him. 

But as we come to the table, let us remember the twist Jesus makes in his good shepherd example.  Having offered his followers a relationship based on trust, and as we gaze at our Lord as a sheep watches the shepherd, Jesus the shepherd tells us there are other sheep out there which belong to our flock.

He takes our gaze and directs it outwards again towards our neighbour.  We echo the words of Jesus when we say at the Eucharistic prayer that he shed his blood for our sins and for the sins of many others.

So as well as renewing out trust in the Lord at the Eucharistic table, Jesus asks us to renew our trust in each other, which is for most of us the difficult bit.

Let’s try.

 


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Page last updated: 12th Jul 2018 12:23 PM