April 22, 2018
One day a shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a car drives up, and an old guy leans out of the car window and says, hello there, “I’m from flock central; I’ve been trained in helping people like you to know about all the modern trends of shepherding. I’ve got a lot of tools at my disposal; mind if I offer you some advice; and by the way if I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock will you give me one?”
The shepherd somewhat skeptical nevertheless replied, sure. So the man gets out of the car, whips out a notebook, connects it to a cell phone, that has a google map application on it; he scans the area and opens a database with some 50 spread sheets with complex formulas. Finally he prints out some 35 spreadsheets on his portable printer and turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 581 sheep. Amazed the shepherd replies “that’s correct. So you can have one of the sheep.
So the old guy picked a sheep out and put it in the car; As he was about to leave, the Shepherd asked, “ If I can tell you exactly what your business is will you give me my sheep back? “Why not,” said man; “You are an interim” said shepherd. This time it was the old man who was amazed. “That’s correct how did you guess?” “Easy,” said the shepherd, “you turn up here out of the blue, with all your supposed knowledge of how I should manage my flock which I have been doing faithfully for years. And you don’t know anything about me or my flock because you just selected my dog!”
So much for experts -consultants or interim vicars who come into a situation with enough knowledge to be dangerous! Nevertheless with a dose of humility and hats off to those of you who have been here faithfully for a long time and know this parish much better than I do let me make a few observations based this morning’s Gospel reading.
Amid Jesus discourse on being the “Good Shepard” what jumped out to me was Jesus’ bold assertion that “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”(John 10:16)
What this statements says to me and I hope to you is that quite simply Jesus isn’t done yet. Despite his healing, despite his preaching, despite all that he had already done and planned to do, Jesus isn’t done yet. He still has more sheep to reach, sheep that are not yet in this fold. And for us today, it means God isn’t done yet for us either.
Why does this matter for Grace Church at this particular moment?
- First, God continues to seek out and to bring into his fold people from all walks of life, from every nation, nationality, including all those new folks who are moving into Greene County . God’s mission field is huge; In other words, God holds the future of the Church- this parish. We do not have to worry that the future is up to us. This is not a Little Engine that could moment. Our primary role is to be a people of prayer-to give thanks for who we are now; to discern God’s will for what this parish might look like in the future.
- Second God is at work in our midst and through us and and through this parish in Stanardsville to extend the invitation to abundant life offered by the Good Shepherd; furthermore, God is using our lives and words to invite people to faith; to come and see; and there is a lot to commend here-let me tell you; there is! Its too good to kept behind closed doors! Can we imagine that simply by praying for someone or inviting someone to Church we might be the vessel by which God continues to reach out and embrace the sheep-all those people out there- from beyond this fold that is Grace Church? Can we?
- Third and finally; the possibilities of more sheep in the fold are beyond our Let’s not circle the wagons, not a time to be down in the dumps, rather it is time to be in an Advent mode, expectant; open; positive. All we know is that God isn’t done yet. . Jesus is still calling, God is still searching.
- I know more and more people perhaps you are one of them, who are worried about friends and family who no longer go to Church, who don’t necessarily identify as Christian anymore. Clearly the landscape of a Christian culture in America is changing. For some of you it is hard for you to digest that you will only be able to afford a part time vicar this time around. Yes old patterns of church are dying but new ones are emerging. The resurrection metaphor holds true for parishes as it does for
Once again the key is prayer. Right now our call is to pray that God would work in and through us to share rich life we’ve experienced. We need to pray that Grace Church can grow during this transitional time-remembering that there are lots of ways of growing;
This is a time to affirm that we can trust to God all those people out there; we can do that simply because of the faith God showed in us by sending the Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for us and all people :: and he does that out of nothing other than sheer, abiding, and eternal love.