The Fourth Sunday of Easter is, famously, Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel reading for this Sunday is John 10.1-10.
I was asked to provide a video from our sheep farm that would give a little insight as to what Jesus was thinking and saying when he spoke of himself as the Good Shepherd and as the gate into the sheepfold. This video was used by several local congregations as part of their online worship experience. I provide here a link to one such worship service in its entirety. The “sermon” of this service, which follows an introduction by host Pastor Janet Hunt, and a reading of the Gospel, is our little demonstration featuring sheepdog Betty, good wife Connie, our little flock of 25 North Country Cheviot sheep, and trusty guardian dog Bilbo (watching closely from the barnyard in the background.)
And, here are some notes I prepared for this video:
You have heard of “Blind Faith.”
People use it to describe us church people.
But that isn’t who we are, is it?
When Jesus watched the shepherds and the sheep in the hills around his boyhood home of Nazareth, he saw a great lesson of faith. Not blind faith, but what the Russians spoke of in their proverb: Doveryay no proveryay – Trust but verify. A Russian scholar taught that to Ronald Reagan and he used it to great affect as he negotiated a nuclear arms freeze and reduction with the Soviets.
Keep those words in mind: Trust, but verify, as I show you what Jesus saw.
I’m not dressed as a shepherd of Jesus’ day, because I don’t have clothes like that. But I’ve worked with English, Welsh, Irish and especially Scottish shepherds for many years – so I’m dressed like them.
And I have a whistle like theirs, and a crook like theirs, and, especially, a sheepdog like theirs.
Working with sheep is all about trust but verify.
As we go out to the sheep I want you to notice something. They verify. They use their super powers of verification all the time – they listen and they watch.
They have too, because there are wolves and coyotes and wild dogs out there that would love to eat them. But they aren’t as fast…they don’t have the endurance for a long chase…they don’t have big teeth like these animals to defend themselves.
People too can be a danger. The wrong kind of people who would like to steal the sheep, or hurt them.
So, a shepherd has to earn their trust. And so does the shepherd’s dog.
In Jesus’ day they had guardian dogs. We have that too. But we also have dogs that grew up in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland – dogs that gather sheep and drive them to market, and do all sorts of jobs.
I learned that both the dogs and I have to earn the trust of the sheep by being quiet and kind and care for them in every way—to be trustworthy.
Then, the sheep will be quiet – they will follow, and I can lead them in and out.
Trust and verify.
“The sheep know my voice,” Jesus says. “In return, I care for them deeply and personally. And I know each of them. I know their names.”
It is not blind faith but a great exchange of trustworthiness and trust. It gives life.
Today our many devices bring many voices, claiming to be trustworthy, into our lives. Lots of people trying to get our trust – but many of these simply don’t care, and their careless, and even manipulative advice can only harm us.
We must verify. Who are the trustworthy sources of news and advice?
And, ultimately, there is One Voice that we can trust above all. One Good Shepherd who is trustworthy. If we follow Jesus, we will know life.
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