Sheep or Shepherd?

Detail from a window at St Mark's Capitol Hill, Washington DC
There is one Shepherd, and we are all called to be one flock. The Good Shepherd knows his or her sheep by name, and the sheep know the sound of the shepherd's voice, and the shepherd loves the sheep and is willing to die for them.  These are things we are likely to hear on Good Shepherd Sunday.

And we are comforted by these words. This has been a week that has seen violence and disaster, loss of life through evil and through carelessness and through the forces of nature. Reciting the 23rd Psalm, we affirm that the Lord, who leads us to good pasture and fresh water and through the valley of the shadow of death, is our Good Shepherd.

But there is also a disconnect here, if we stay in the land of the Good Shepherd, of green pastures and valleys of shadows without seeing them present in our own lives and in our own communities.  The stories that have unfolded this week have intruded on our reveries.

And so while it is good to meditate on the Good Shepherd in the land of the 23rd Psalm, I can't help but think about the Good Shepherd on Boylston Street, the Good Shepherd at Rest Haven in West, Texas, the Good Shepherd in the Sichuan Province of China, of Syria, of India, of [insert place of brokenness here]. That Good Shepherd is surely our God, and the people of those places are the sheep loved by the Shepherd.

But we Christians know our God through the person of Jesus Christ, in whom God became incarnate - a human - and lived among us.  And that Good Shepherd Jesus admonished us to feed and love his sheep, to ourselves incarnate God's love for God's people here on earth.

And so we are called, too, to be Good Shepherd's of God's sheep everywhere we and they are.

Sometimes we are the sheep, when we are grieving and broken ourselves, but sometimes we are the shepherds, too.  And shepherds are called upon to take risks on behalf of the sheep who are in need or trouble and even in danger.

Today's newspapers have mentioned a police officer who brought milk to a family with a small child in Watertown during the lockdown. He provided sustenance in the face of fear and danger.

The death count in Texas is made up primarily of first responders who first rescued people from the nursing home nearby and were killed as they attempted to care other people in harm's way. They laid down their lives for the sheep.

Sometimes we are the shepherds, too. The Great Shepherd of the Sheep is Jesus, but we are called to feed his sheep. That makes us shepherds as well, serving in all places that are broken and hurting and in distress.