April 25, 2021

Shepherding economy or not?

Shepherding economy or not?

Love me love my dog is very British, Peter Shelly had a hit with it in 1975. The nation of pet lovers. I met someone recently who’s mother had died after a period of terminal illness, and who’s dog had to be put down, suddenly. The grief for the dog seemed to overwhelm the grief for the mother. Perhaps it was the last straw, but I remember losing my dog as a young boy and my grief was overwhelming. So, would you give up your life for your dog, or sheep? The imagery used by Jesus over and over again is of both the shepherd and a lamb. If, as would have been the case then, a lion had come in to capture the sheep would you let the lion eat you instead of the sheep. Very unlikely. You might risk something, but actually give up your life for a sheep…? After all, what good would it do?Jesus ‘good’ shepherd is way over the top of what was expected of a random shepherd of the time, and his hearers would have found the picture humorous. It was irrational, uneconomic, irresponsible to give up your life for a sheep. But that is not over the top of what was expected of the leadership of the nation. David was the second king of Israel, and, of course, was a shepherd. The shepherd, Jesus describes, is the unpaid minder – as most pet owners are. The sheep were known to him and key is that they are known in the same way known as he was known to the Father. In the same was as a pet owner knows their pet. This is not about an economic relationship in farming, it is a love relationship. Remember when Jesus talks of the 99 who are left to fend for themselves whilst Jesus, the good shepherd, risks his life for the one. That makes no economic sense at all. What risk assessment would ever suggest that the shepherd should leave their sheep for hours, maybe days, in order to find the one missing which might well be beyond help anyway. No, no, no. A bird in the hand in worth two in the bush – 99 in the hand much more valuable than one in the thicket. The imagery, of course, is about value – yours and mine. God will put all resources possible into recovering the lost sheep. Alleluia that the 99 can fend for themselves. God will put the resources in come what may to rescue the lost – and why not – if you know your sheep, not as meat for the table, not as a source of income, not as a body for sacrifice, but as a deeply loved sentient animal, then depending on the depth of that love, you will move heaven and earth to save them from their own foolishness. John Hale was telling me about their dog which may have been bitten by a snake one evening. A large dog that could not be carried, so John stayed outside with it all night. How much more when the God of all, in Jesus Christ, values us, like sheep gone astray, but wanting us to have the life abundant planned for us from the beginning of time, and the only way to do that was to lay down his life for his sheep. It leaves me with a profound feeling of individual value. I was reading about NASA’s Mars probe, and a book called the human universe by Professor … The SETI project is to find sentient life elsewhere in the universe, but, for various reasons, it is not within 4. 7 light-years distant. All life is so exceptionally rare, no wonder it is worth dying for but the creator. Just know that you are so well known by God that, to keep you assured of that love he dies for you. Amen.


Read Mark 4:26-34

The parable of the growing seed

26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’

The parable of the mustard seed

30 Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

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