I know only a little about being a shepherd to sheep. My neighbor, at the first congregation I served, had sheep and once in a while, I would have to corral a sheep or two that figured out how to get out of the fence. One year she had two lambs and they were escape artists and had to be herded back to safety multiple times. The sheep were always skittish around me because they didn’t know me. But my neighbor could call them by name and they would come running at the sound of her voice.
Even though I don’t know much about sheep, what I do have experience with is herding ducks. Each year our family would get 50 ducks in the mail. We would raise them from a couple of days old until they were big enough to make the walk down to the lake. It was a long walk for these little ducks but each morning and each evening they would waddle from the barn to the lake and from the lake back to the barn. I will never forget just how afraid of water they would be the first day we took them to the lake. We would have to force them in so that they could realize that they could swim around just fine.
As they got older and bolder, the trip to the lake was easy. They would exit the barn door and test out their wings by flying towards the lake. At first they could only fly a few feet until eventually they could fly all the way to the lake. It was the evening that got harder because they would often wander across the lake and first you would have to find them and then second convince them to leave the water they loved for the safety of the barn each night.
We would struggle with this for weeks and weeks until dad would finally decide that they were smart enough and strong enough to get away from the predators that would try to get them. Some nights they would wander towards the barn wondering why no one was leading them in and other nights they would be nowhere to be found. One thing about ducks, if you could get one going in the right direction they would often find their way back to the barn easier because everyone else would follow the leader.
Sometimes raising kids is a lot like raising ducks. At first you have to convince them to explore the world around them and before you know they just want to spread their wings and be left alone. Sometimes, they come looking for a parent because they need to talk something through and other times they can be hard to find or they don’t like to follow rules.
Honestly, we can all be like sheep or ducks or children. Sometimes we are ok with being directed or herded in a certain direction and other times, we run and hide as far away as we can. With Jesus as our shepherd, we learn that Jesus will go to extremes to bring us back to him. Jesus is even willing to leave the 99 to find the one that is missing. As beloved children of God, as siblings in Christ, we are precious in the eyes of the shepherd. And the shepherd promises to keep searching after us, even when we have wandered off. We might not always like Jesus treating us this way but in the end, we can be thankful that Jesus will keep searching for us even when we are trying to not be found.
God’s Peace, Pastor Steve