Today, we received a parcel with insulated packaging consisting of thin plastic bolsters filled with brown wool, made by a company based in Taunton called The Woolly Shepherd! They are an ethical family business with its eye firmly set on a low-carbon future: “We are taking waste wool to places it’s never been before!”
On our trip to visit family in the West Country last week, we saw many fields of sheep and delightful newly-born lambs, a sight quite topical for the Easter season as a symbol of new life, but also a Good Friday theme often quoted from Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all ”
Also in the post this morning was a newsletter from Musalaha, with on the front a beautiful picture of a young shepherd sitting down on a rock watching attentively his flock grazing all round him. Again, a very special biblical theme, with the Twenty-third Psalm “ The Lord is my Shepherd….” surely top of all the polls for favourite passages! What wonderful imagery this is. I have known many adults who struggle with the image of ‘God the Father’, because of abuse and neglect in their childhood from an earthly father, but who can respond to the unsullied image of a caring protective Shepherd.
So a second favourite passage in the Bible must surely be The Good Shepherd of John’s gospel 10:11, where Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The Greek word for ‘lays down’ is tithesin and is the same word used at the Last Supper on that first Maundy Thursday, when Jesus, the loving servant ‘lay down’ his outer clothing as he prepared to stoop and wash the feet of his disciples – and prepared as the good shepherd to ‘lay down’ his life for the often mindless, directionless, straying, confused and panicked sheep.
Laying down our lives, and lying at the entrance of the sheepfold to keep the sheep in and predators out are powerful images, especially when we remember that as the Body of Christ we are called to share in his shepherdly ministry today. I wonder how as individuals in our daily lives, and as a church family together, we can best reflect the Good Shepherd, and introduce the lost sheep all around us to him?