Way back at the beginning of WWII the Germans commissioned a massive battle ship named the Bismarck. It was the biggest fighting vessel the world had ever seen. With the Bismarck the Germans had the opportunity to dominate the seas. Soon after it was commissioned it sank tons of Allied shipping and allied aircraft. Its massive armor plating resulted in the boast that the Bismarck was unsinkable. But the Bismarck was sunk by one torpedo which hit its rudder. As a result the battleship zig-zagged through the sea, unable to reach harbor. It was a short while before the British navy was able to overtake and destroy it. No matter how large the battleship, it was doomed without a rudder to direct it. Floundering on the water of chaos without a rudder to direct it, the Bismarck is a modern-day image of a world without the guidance of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without the Lord, the world is headed for chaos. But with the Lord there is guidance, direction and purpose in life.
We all recognize Jesus as the Good Shepherd as in the 10th chapter of John Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me.” Throughout the Old Testament we are reminded that God has always been our Good Shepherd as noted by the prophet Isaiah 40:11 when he says, “Like a shepherd God feeds his flock, gathers the lambs and leads them with care and in Psalm 23 which reads, “You Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life.” We as well hear multiple Old Testament books like the book of Ezekiel 34:2 which defines Israel as composed of bad shepherds who feed themselves and not their flock, and are unwilling to put themselves in danger to protect their sheep.
Dwelling on the positive, as I always believe is the best approach, let’s look at how Jesus defines the person who is the good shepherd of his flock. He tells us that the good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep knows his voice, even as Jesus knows each of us our needs, our good traits, our limitations and our faults. In addition, he loves us just as we are, and wants us to return his love by listening to him and following the example he has given us by his life and his willingness to die for us. He guides us and protects us from the spiritual wolves of this world with Satan as the chief wolf in addition to the other seven wolves of this world, pride, greed, envy gluttony, anger, lust and sloth. In addition the Good Shepherd goes in search of stray lambs and heals sick ones. Jesus heals the wounds of our soul if we just ask him to and even if we don’t ask.
In reflecting on what our relationship is to be with Jesus it reminds of my relationship with my little dog Kramer. Knowing him as he is, I love him unconditionally just as Jesus loves me. I know that Kramer loves me and loves to run and hunt critters but there are times when the temptation to run and hunt is so strong that can’t resist it and he turns into what my neighbors call him, the white streak. He does return to me and in his own way asks for forgiveness. In most cases he returns to me in a few minutes but in some cases it takes a little longer like the other day he ended up at a friendly neighbor helping her eat a ham sandwich. Some time back, before he was familiar with Cedar Community where I live, he lost his way and ended up welcoming people at the Cedar Community reception desk which is about ¼ mile from my house. Doesn’t this sound like our relationship with sin? In some cases our transgressions are small and short lived, but in other cases they are large and returning home to Jesus takes a while longer but in every case Jesus is willing to forgive and forget.
Back to our reflection of Jesus and we as Good Shepherds. It is the ministry of everyone of us to be good shepherds. Everyone is entrusted with the care of others as a shepherd in our family, in our church, in our job or in our community . No matter what our role or status in life is God requires us to think like a shepherd/owner, not a hireling. Not as a person who is concerned with just their own welfare. Not as Jesus described them as “A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not their own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and lets them scatter.
Being a Good Shepherd is not as easy task, especially in today’s world, but today’s feast reminds us that Jesus is always there to strengthen us and provide all each of us needs to be Good Shepherds to everyone.