Easter 4A - Good Shepherd

From the Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil 

1.     Moses, the shepherd-leader:  

The Jews had a lovely legend to explain why God chose Moses to be the leader of his people. "When Moses was feeding the sheep of his father-in-law in the wilderness, a young kid ran away. Moses followed it until it reached a ravine, where it found a well to drink from. When Moses got up to it, he said: `I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be weary.' He took the kid on his shoulders and carried it back. Then God said: `Because you have shown pity in leading back one of a flock belonging to a man, you shall lead my flock Israel.'"  

2.     Alexander, the shepherd of soldiers.  

When the emperor Alexander the Great was crossing the Makran Desert on his way to Persia, his army ran out of water. The soldiers were dying of thirst as they advanced under the burning sun. A couple of Alexander's lieutenants managed to capture some water from a passing caravan. They brought some to him in a helmet. He asked, "Is there enough for both me and my men?" "Only you, sir," they replied. Alexander then lifted up the helmet as the soldiers watched. Instead of drinking, he tipped it over and poured the water on the ground. The men let up a great shout of admiration. They knew their general would not allow them to suffer anything he was unwilling to suffer himself.  

3.     “It will kill you if you move.”  

A soldier dying on a Korean battle field asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied. “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand. 

4.     "I guess you must be a sheep dog."

A pastor was discussing the 23rd Psalm with some children in his congregation. He told the children about sheep, that they weren't smart and needed lots of guidance, and that a shepherd's job was to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals and keep them from wandering off. He pointed to the little children in the room and said that they were the sheep and needed lots of guidance. Then the pastor put his hands out to the side, palms up in a dramatic gesture, and with raised eyebrows said to the children, "If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?" He was pretty obviously indicating himself. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young girl said, "Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd." The young pastor, obviously caught by surprise, said to the little girl, "Well then, who am I?" The girl frowned thoughtfully and then said with a shrug, "I guess you must be a sheep dog."  

5.     Pastor’s vacation:  

It's been said that every pastor ought to have six weeks of vacation each year, because if he is a really good shepherd, he deserves it; and if he is not a very good shepherd, his congregation deserves it.  

6.     "May I see your driver's license?"  

Everyone, it seems, is interested in my numbers. I go to the grocery store to buy some groceries. After the checkout woman rings up my bill, I pull out my checkbook and write out the check. She takes it from me. She looks at the information. Numbers tell her where I live. Numbers tell her how to reach me on the telephone. "Is this information correct?" she asks.” Yes, it is," I reply. "May I see your driver's license?" she asks. She looks at my driver's license and writes some more numbers on my check. Finally, I am approved. The numbers are all there. I can eat for another week. One could wish it were a bit more human and personal. So the IRS knows me by my tax number. My state knows me by my driver's license number. My bank knows me by my bank account number. My employer knows me by my social security number. On and on it goes for you, for me, for everybody. Everybody knows my numbers. I am not sure that anyone knows me! The numbers game that is played in our culture is one symptom of loneliness and alienation that surrounds us today. "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?" That is a line from an early song by the Beatles. Loneliness. Isolation. Alienation. These are the realities of contemporary civilized life. "I am the good shepherd." Those were Jesus' words in our reading from John's gospel text for this sermon. "I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me ..."  

7.     Jesus knows his sheep by name:  

There have always been people with a good memory for names: Napoleon, "who knew thousands of his soldiers by name . . .” or James A. Farley, "who claimed he knew 50,000 people by their first name . . .” or Charles Schwab, "who knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Homestead Mill . . .” or Charles W. Eliot, "who, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year . . .” or Harry Lorayne, "who used to amaze his audiences by being introduced to hundreds of people, one after another, then giving the name of any person who stood up and requested it.” (7) But can you imagine Christ knowing all his sheep by name? That's millions and millions of people over 2,000 years. No wonder we call him Master, Lord, Savior – watching over his flock, calling each by name. 

8.     “I only know them by name."  

Tony Campolo loves to tell the story of a particular census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There's Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie." It was then that the census taker interrupted her aid said: "No, ma'am, that's not necessary. I only need the humans." "Ah," she said. "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey, Johnny, and Harvey, and...." But there once again, the census taker interrupted her. Slightly exasperated, he said, "No, ma'am, you don't seem to understand. I don't need their names, I just need the numbers." To which the old woman replied, "But I don't know them by numbers. I only know them by name." In today’s gospel Jesus the good shepherd says that he knows his sheep by name.  

9.     “I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility."  

About 4 years ago, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan $50,000 to change his name legally to "Dallas Maverick." When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000 and donate $100,000 to Kaplan's favorite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching, and being bombarded by e-mails from listeners who said he was crazy to turn down the money, Kaplan held firm and told Cuban no. Kaplan explained: "I'd be saying I'd do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright. I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility." Skip Bayless, Chicago Tribune (1/10/01), Leadership Summer 2001) The name "Christian" is our birthright. From the moment of our baptism and our birth into the Kingdom of God, we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd who promises to lead us to green pastures and beside the still waters. The Voice of the Shepherd protects us. 

10.  His master’s voice:  

Have you ever seen the painting done in the 1930s of a dog, looking with a cocked head, at an old gramophone? The name of the painting is His Master's Voice, and it's a symbol of what Jesus is saying to us. "The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." 

11.  “I know the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.”  

A famous actor was the guest of honor at a social gathering. As people gathered around, they asked the actor to recite excerpts from various literary works. He obliged and did so brilliantly. Finally, an elderly pastor asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor hesitated at first and then agreed on one condition. The pastor would return the favor. The actor’s recitation was brilliant and eloquent. People responded to the actor with lengthy applause. The pastor’s rendition was feeble and frail. But when the pastor finished, there was not a dry eye in the house. Finally, the actor broke the silence with these words: “I know the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Do you know the Shepherd? Have you found Him to be good? Have you discovered He is all you need? 

12.  “Then we FLEECE them!”  

Two television evangelists were talking. One was explaining how he was seeking to be the ideal shepherd to his television flock. “There are three ways I seek to do that,” he said. “What three ways do you mean?” asked the other evangelist. “Well” he explained, “First, we FIND them. Every year we find new stations to carry our ministry. Then we FEED them. I give them the plain unvarnished word of God.” “But what’s the third thing?” asked the second evangelist. “Well,” he answered, “Once we’ve found them and fed them, then we FLEECE them!” Some TV evangelists have become quite proficient at fleecing their flock. I hope you understand that nothing could be farther from the example of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . .” Fleecing the flock is a long way from laying down your life for them. 

13.  “But I never jumped.”  

A paratrooper who had recently resigned from the military was asked how many times he had jumped out of an airplane. He said, “None.” A friend of his asked, “What do you mean, ‘none,’ I thought you were a paratrooper?” He said, “I was, but I never jumped. I was pushed several times . . . but I never jumped.” The hired hand never jumps. He has to be pushed. Churches often have hired hands in them. Not our church, of course. But other churches are full of people who have to be pushed to do what they know they ought to do. Jesus did not have to be pushed.

   14. “I give my life for my sheep”:

We applaud when a man or woman gives his or her life for another. Such instances do come along from time to time. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. May 28, 1989: "Former NFL football player Jerry Anderson," read the newspaper account, "died Saturday after pulling two young boys out of a rain-swollen river about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Witnesses said Anderson saw two boys, thought to be 11 or 12 years old, attempting to cross a dam spanning the river. One or both boys fell into the water. According to Officer Bill Todd, ‘Mr. Anderson jumped in the water and managed to get the little boys out, but witnesses said he went under two or three times and about the fourth time, he didn't come back up.’" He gave his life to rescue two small boys. Of course, you don't have to be an American or a football player for such heroic actions. In a Middle school in the Ukrainian village of Ivanichi a young teacher died sometime back. He absorbed the blast of a hand grenade to protect his pupils. What was a grenade doing in a middle school? According to the London Times, the teacher, a graduate of the KGB border guard college, had been delivering the military instruction that is a compulsory part of the curriculum for Soviet children. He was teaching them how to handle what should have been an unarmed grenade. When he pulled the pin a wisp of smoke showed that a live grenade had become mixed in with demonstration grenades, and he gave his life. You don't have to be a man to perform such heroics. Many years ago a woman carrying a baby through the hills of South Wales, England, was overtaken by a blizzard. Searchers found her later frozen to death in the snow. Amazed that she had on no outer garments, they searched further and found her baby. She had wrapped them around the child, who was still alive and well. He grew up to be David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War I. 

15.  Big Brother is watching us:  

Ever since 1984 hit the bookstores, people concerned about individual privacy and freedom have looked for signs that Big Brother is becoming a reality in our society. And it is true that more and more of our urban landscape is being observed by security cameras. But that is only one way our privacy is being invaded. There was a news report several years ago that Israeli scientists are now marketing a microchip that, implanted under the skin, will protect film stars and millionaires from kidnappers. The chip emits a signal detectable by satellite to help rescuers determine a victim’s approximate location. Originally the chip was developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad. The $5,000 chip doesn’t even require batteries. It runs solely on the neurophysiological energy generated within the human body. The firm which developed it, Gen-Etics, won’t reveal where the chip is inserted but said that, at that time, 43 people had had it implanted. Since this report was published there has been an explosion of interest in this technology. Farmers keep tabs on the health and safety of their cows and other livestock with such chips. But the use of such devices to monitor human beings is almost limitless. Already there is a monitoring bracelet for Alzheimer patients, so that families can use GPS systems to help find loved ones who might have wandered off. Would it be inconceivable that loving parents might want to monitor the whereabouts of their children via satellite? Why not have a chip implanted. Pet owners are already using such technology. Some cynics have suggested that some wives might want to monitor their husbands. Soon we will see signs, “Big Brother is watching.” Here’s what’s amusing to me. There are people who have no difficulty believing that one day the government will keep track of us all, but who cannot conceive that an all-knowing God can take a personal interest in each of His children, hear each of our prayers, and be responsive to each of our individual needs. 

16.  Images are highly influential 

They become emblazoned on the wall of our minds, and they evoke a wide range of responses. Millions of people will remember the fireman carrying the baby out of the ruins of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. World War II veterans, particularly the ones who served in the South Pacific, will always remember Mount Surabachi and the Marines who raised an American flag at its summit, as well as the image of General MacArthur returning to the Philippines. Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon in the early '70s is frozen in many memories, too. If you were old enough to watch and understand television in l963, you probably remember young John F. Kennedy, Jr., at the casket of his father Jack. Much closer to our own time, many of us will long retain the image of students running out of Columbine High School with their hands over their heads. Some images are immensely powerful and have a tenacity that is tireless and timeless. If there is one image associated with the Christian faith which, more than any other, has found an enduring place within the collective life of the Christian church, it is the image of Jesus as the good shepherd.  

17.  Hannah and Her Sisters

A recent movie by Woody Allen was titled, Hannah and Her Sisters. The movie deals precisely with that theme. It is about Hannah and her sisters and how family life gives some sense of stability to life in a fractured world. The part played by Woody Allen in the movie is the part of a man who is constantly afraid that he will get some terrible disease. He is what we call a hypochondriac. As he comes into the movie, we see him on his way to the doctor. The doctor assures him that nothing seems to be terribly wrong, though some additional tests need to be made. Woody cannot calm himself over these additional tests. He is sure they will find something terrible. "What are you afraid of," one of his friends asks him, "cancer?" "Don't say that," Woody responds with a look of terror. More tests are performed. A cat scan is prescribed for his head. He is sure they will find a brain tumor. But his fears are unfounded. The doctor announces to him that all is well. In the next scene we see Woody coming out of the hospital, kicking up his heels, and running joyfully down the street. He is celebrating. But suddenly he stops. We know instinctively why he stops. He tells us in the next scene. "All this means," he says, "is that I am all right this time. Next time it will probably be serious.” Our lives are lived in constant danger. Woody Allen's character overplays the danger. But the danger is there. There are all kinds of realities that imperil our lives nearly every day. Accidents might befall us. Natural disasters strike. Oppressive structures of life weigh us down. Disease stalks us and death awaits. That is the way life is. We live our lives in constant peril. Woody Allen might have exaggerated a bit, but he is right. Human life is an endangered species. Death calls a halt to every human life. "I am the good shepherd," Jesus says. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." 

18.  The Bismarck:  

In the beginning of World War II, the Nazis commissioned a massive battleship named the Bismarck. It was the biggest fighting vessel the world had seen up to that time. With the Bismarck the Germans had the opportunity to dominate the seas. Very soon after it was commissioned, the Bismarck 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. And it was sunk due to one lone torpedo. A torpedo hit the Bismarck in the rudder. As a result the battleship zig-zagged through the sea, unable to reach harbor. It was only a short while before the British navy was able to overtake and destroy it. No matter how large the battleship may be, it is doomed without a rudder to direct it. Floundering on the waters of chaos without a rudder, the Bismarck is a modern-day image of a world without the direction of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without the Lord, the world is headed toward chaos. But with the Lord there is guidance, direction and purpose in life.
Fr. Jude Botelho:

That old man knows the Shepherd

A group of men sat around debating good and bad memories. As a result of the discussion, an impromptu contest began, to test their memories. One young man, with some artistic talent and training in voice production, recited Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. His rendition was very effective, and it drew thunderous applause, so he had to recite the psalm a second and a third time. The second 'contestant' was difficult to hear every word as he, too, recited 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. When he was finished, there was total silence in the room. Something strange had happened. Unconsciously, many people felt a sense of inner stirring, and a few began to whisper a quiet prayer. The young man, who recited the psalm first time around, stood up and explained the different reception to the two recitals of the same psalm. 'I know the Psalm,' he said, 'but it is obvious that old man knows the Shepherd.'

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

Recognizing the Master
One of the memories I have of the home of my birth was a dog we had, called Roxy. We lived on a fairly quiet road but, as the years went by, the number of cars increased. Irrespective of how many passed by, Roxy was quite indifferent. Then, suddenly, the ears were at full stretch, up he sprang, and he raced at full speed along the road. There was no sign of anything coming, but we all knew that my mother was on her way, driving back from town, and was probably several hundred yards away. With all the cars, this is the sound that Roxy recognized from a distance. By the time he met the car, my mother had rolled down the window on the passenger side, slowed down slightly and, with the car still moving, Roxy sprang right into the front seat and accompanied her on the latter part of the journey. I'm sure most of us have known unique relationships between animals and humans.

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the gospel truth'

"I lay down my life for my sheep." He here vows that he is prepared in every way to fight and face danger on behalf of his friends and kindred; confirming by the emphatic repetition of his intention that he is indeed the good shepherd. For they who abandon the sheep to the wolves are rightly named cowards and hirelings. But he is prepared to defend them, so that he does not falter even in the face of death, is with just reason called the good shepherd.......... We must keep in mind that Christ did not suffer death for us unwillingly; rather he seemed to walk towards it of his own will, though he could with ease have avoided suffering had he wished not to suffer. Therefore, in that he freely and of his own will suffered for our sakes, we behold the greatness of his love and goodness towards us."
- St. Cyril of Alexandria, The Good Shepherd
Does anyone care?
The Broadway musical 1776 dealt with those critical days and weeks in our history when our forefathers debated the Declaration of Independence. At one point in the debate, the fate of our great nation was like a pole standing in wet sand. It could fall either way: backwards into the past and continued domination by England, or forward into the future and newfound freedom. One night John Adams, one of the freedom fighters, was terribly worried about the outcome. Standing all alone in the darkness of Independence Hall, where the great debate was being held, he began to sing in words like these: "Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what I see?" -These are the same words Jesus is singing in our darkened world. He is singing all alone, hoping greathearted people will hear him: "Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what I see?"

Mark Link in 'Decision'




Leadership. We all want good leadership. Good shepherds to lead us in and out of green pasture. We vote hoping to elect it, we apply for jobs hoping to work for it, and we go to school hoping to be educated by it. But we do not always find it. The trust we place in our leaders can be broken. So what are we to do? John 10 holds the answer.

Look at the picture Jesus gives us here in John 10: This wonderful vivid portrait of a shepherd caring for his sheep. The shepherd would lead his sheep out to distant areas and stay there for days. Being a good shepherd he created a temporary corral, a pen to keep the sheep in when they were not grazing. Using the crude stones of the field a shepherd could quickly put together such a structure and at night he would lay his body down in the opening of this corral making himself the door. No sheep could wonder away at night unless it stepped over the sleeping shepherd and no wolf could come in to do harm without waking the shepherd. He is the gate.

Do you see what is happening here? More than any other duty the goal of the shepherd is to protect the sheep. This is how you know a good shepherd from a bad shepherd. Does the Shepherd. . .does the leader have the best interest of his people at heart? How do you know that he or she is a good shepherd? You know by looking at the sheep.

Looking at Jesus' teaching here in John 10 I want to ask a few questions and see what the answers might be?

1. What are the needs of the sheep?
2. What are the traits of a bad shepherd?
3. What are the traits of a good shepherd?  


A pastor friend who lived in an apartment complex in San Francisco tells about the time that he and his wife parked their brand new Honda Accord under cover in the secured parking area next to their apartment complex. The next day they decided to celebrate the purchase of that new car by going out to breakfast together. Not only would they enjoy eating out together, it would give them another opportunity to drive their new automobile. Leaving the apartment building, they greeted the guard on duty at the gate of the parking garage. They walked along a row of parked cars and, he reports, as they walked up to their new Honda they knew right away that something was not right because the passenger side front door was not closed completely. As they drew closer they discovered that the dashboard had been broken, the radio was stolen as well as, believe it or not, the burglar alarm! They called the police and the person who took their report said, "Let me guess, you were parked at that nice apartment complex on Burlington Avenue and your car is a Honda Accord. Am I right?" "Yes," he responded, "do you already know about this?" "No," replied the person on the other end of the telephone, "but you are the eleventh person who has called us this morning from that apartment complex and all of you were parked in that same undercover parking lot and you all own Honda Accords and all of your dashboards are torn up and your radios and burglar alarms stolen."

Can we imagine how violated that couple felt? When they spoke again to the guard at the gate he told of how a guard had been on duty all through the night but the thieves did not enter by the gate. Instead they scaled a fence on the far side of the parking lot and did their work under cover of darkness. Thieves violate the common trust of the neighborhoods and communities they rob. They steal not only car radios or whatever else they choose to take, they also create emotional turmoil for the people in those neighborhoods and communities. Jesus says, "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit" (v. 1).

Come with me to one of the most moving and inviting chapters in the entire Bible. John chapter 10 is also one of the most beloved passages in all the scriptures. The teaching in this chapter reminds us of some of the parables that Matthew, Mark, and Luke record in their gospels. However, there is one glaring difference and we find it in verse 6 where John calls these words from the Lord's lips a "figure of speech." It is an allegory not a parable. Jesus is not talking about violated cars here but about something far more important and vital....
I Am The Door

George Adam Smith, the 19th century biblical scholar tells of traveling one day in the holy land and coming across a shepherd and his sheep. He fell into conversation with him and the man showed him the fold into which the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls, with a way in. Smith asked him, "This is where they go at night?" "Yes," said the shepherd, "and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe." "But there is no door," said Smith. "I am the door," said the shepherd. He was not a Christian man and wasn't speaking in the language of the New Testament. He was speaking from an Arab shepherd's viewpoint. Smith looked and him and asked, "What do you mean you are the door?" "When the light has gone," said the shepherd, "and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door."

George Adam Smith
The Gift of Free Will

Today's society presents us with many choices and possibilities that only seem to grow more numerous with time and the "advance" of culture. They say that "variety is the spice of life" and I suspect it is true. Yet, the many choices that stand before us can be confusing. We need to learn how to wisely use the gift of free will, our ability to choose. This gift, if used constructively, can provide much good for our world, but if abused it can create untold grief.

Wisdom dictates that in order to use our gift of free will wisely, we must ask ourselves some important questions concerning how well we follow Jesus, the shepherd and gatekeeper, in the decisions we make. What are the criteria that we use to make the important decisions of our lives? Do we seek out family and friends, colleagues and associates? What place does God have in our decision making process? What responsibility do we feel for those God has entrusted to us? Young people, students, or subordinates at work all look to elders and superiors to lead them. By following our lead will people find the pasture of life or are we leading people astray by the conduct of our lives? What choices have we made lately? Were they helpful and did they aid us along the path of life or were they destructive? If they were harmful, did we have the courage to change and make a better choice? When we make decisions are they based solely on our needs and wants or do we consider the desires of others?

If we find ourselves in positions of authority, do we make choices that are beneficial to all or are we selfish in our choices? Jesus' life demonstrates that suffering is part of the Christian life. Are we willing to make the decision that may cause suffering because it is the right choice, or do we shy away because we are afraid to endure a crisis for the sake of Christ's name?

Richard E. Gribble, CSC, Sermons For Sundays: In Lent And Easter: Building Our Foundation On God, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
Only Obedience

High in the mountains of North Wales in a place called Llanymawddwy, lives a shepherd named John Jones with his wife Mari and his black and white dog Mack. I stood one misty summer morning in the window of their farmhouse watching John on horseback herding the sheep with Mack. A few cows were quietly chewing their cud in a nearby corner while perhaps a hundred sheep moved across the dewy meadow toward the pens where they were to be dipped.

Mack, a champion Scottish collie, was in his glory. He came from a long line of working dogs, and he had sheep in his blood. This was what he was made for, this was what he had been trained to do. And it was a marvelous thing to see him circling to the right, circling to the left, barking, crouching, racing along, herding a stray sheep here, nipping at a stubborn one there, his eyes always glued to the sheep, his ears listening for the tiny metal whistle from his master, which I couldn't hear.

Mari took me to the pens to watch what John had to do there. When all the animals had been shut inside the gates, Mack tore around the outside of the pens and took up his position at the dipping trough, frantic with expectation, waiting for the chance to leap into action again. One by one John seized the rams by their curled horns and flung them into the antiseptic. They would struggle to climb out the side, and Mack would snarl and snap at their faces to force them back in. Just as they were about to climb up the ramp at the far end, John caught them by the horns with a wooden implement, spun them around, and held them -- ears, eyes, and nose submerged for a few seconds . . . .

When the rams had been dipped, John rode out again on his horse to herd the ewes which were in a different pasture. Again I watched with Mari as John and Mack went to work, the one in charge, the other obedient. Sometimes, tearing at top speed around the flock, Mack would jam on four-wheeled brakes, his eyes blazing but still on the sheep, his body tense and quivering, but obedient to the command to stop. What the shepherd saw the dog could not see -- the weak ewe that lagged behind, the one caught in a bush, the danger that lay ahead for the flock.

"Do the sheep have any idea what's happening?" I asked Mari.

"Not a clue!" she said.
"And how about Mack?" I'll never forget Mari's answer.
"The dog doesn't understand the pattern -- only obedience."
Adapted by Rev. J. Scott Miller from "The Glory of God's Will" by Elizabeth Elliot Leitch in Declare His Glory Among the Nations, pp. 129-130
The Voice of a Stranger

I once knew someone who was a leader in the congregation. At one time or another he had filled most (if not all) of the important leadership positions in that church. More than that, however, oftentimes he was the one who would volunteer for those tough, dirty jobs that no one else wanted: washing dishes after a potluck supper, helping to teach the confirmation class, stacking shelves at the food bank.

This is the kind of person you would like to clone and with whom you'd like to fill the congregation, right? Wrong! This person was a delight to have around until things didn't go his way, and then he was a nightmare: disruptive, divisive, even destructive. He didn't understand the meaning of community and was not a team player. And when (not for the first time) he and his wife climbed into their huff-mobile and drove away after some disagreement, the congregation finally had the good sense not to beg them to come back. Finally that congregation had learned to distinguish between the voice of a shepherd and the voice of a stranger.

Verne Arens, (Good) Help Wanted
Effective Leadership

Once there was an ecumenical crusade that was being held in a large city. Every imaginable denomination was in attendance for this unprecedented event. One afternoon the gathering was in session when all of a sudden a secretary rushed in shouting, "The building's on fire! The building's on fire!" Confusion reigned as each church group came together and did what came natural:

The Methodists gathered in the corner to pray. The Baptists cried, "Where's the water?" The Quakers quietly praised God for the blessings that fire brings. The Lutherans posted a notice on the door declaring that the fire was evil. The Roman Catholics passed a plate to cover the damages. The Unitarians reasoned that the fire would burn itself out if just given the chance. The Congregationalists shouted, "Every man for himself." The Fundamentalists proclaimed, "It's the vengeance of God." The Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out. The Christian Scientists concluded that there was no real fire. The Presbyterians appointed a chairperson to appoint a committee to look into the matter and make a written report.

And the church secretary grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out.

Tom Lacey, Unleashing the Lord in Your Life
Beyond Fleecing

The pastor of a rich suburban parish was speaking to the Sunday school kids. He told them that as the pastor he was like a shepherd and the members of his congregation were the sheep. He then put this question to them: "What does the shepherd do for the sheep?" A little fellow in the front row raised his hands and answered, "He fleeces them." True enough, shepherds go into the business for the purpose of fleecing, milking and feeding on the sheep. But when the Bible speaks of the leaders of God's people as shepherds, it envisions leaders who feed, protect and feel with the people as a good shepherd does for his flock.

Fr. Munachi Ezeogu, Jesus, the Good Shepherd
Missing the Point

Isn't it amazing how sometimes we get all tangled up with the words we speak and end up not being clear about what we're trying to say? Back when I was in high school I had a poster that read, "I know you think you understand what I said, but what you don't understand is that what I said wasn't what I meant." Are you ever misunderstood? I've noticed that it happens everywhere, at work, at home, at school. Believe it or not, it even happens at church.

Every so often, Abigail Van Buren in her column, Dear Abby, runs a list of church bulletin misprints and church sign bloopers that prove that we in the church occasionally have problems saying what we mean. Here are some recent ones:

The bulletin of a church in Iowa announced: The Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday from 7 to 8:30p.m. Please use the back door.

Another church's bulletin carried this announcement: Due to the Pastor's illness, Wednesday's healing services will be discontinued until further notice.

During a service one preacher made this announcement: "This being Easter Sunday, we will now ask Mr. Vassilas to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

Another church newsletter had this: At the evening service tonight, the topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and hear our choir practice.

Not to pick on the choir, but an announcement in one church read: Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

In today's Scripture we find that even Jesus sometimes had trouble speaking clearly enough for people to get what he was saying. Did you notice? Jesus is trying to make a point using symbolic figures of speech that his listeners just don't get. The images he uses of sheepfolds, thieves, gates and gatekeepers were very familiar to these people, and yet, they didn't understand.

Steve Jackson, The Power to Change Your Life
What's the Gimmick?

For years St. Anthony's Catholic Church in San Francisco has served meals to people in need. Over the doorway to its dining room the church has posted a sign bearing the inscription: Caritate Dei. One day a young mechanic, just released from jail and new to St. Anthony's, entered the door and sat down for a meal. A woman was busy cleaning the adjoining table. "When do we get on our knees and do the chores, lady?" he asked.

"You don't," she replied. "Then when's the sermon comin'?" he inquired.
"Aren't any," she said. "How `bout the lecture on life, huh?" "Not here," she said.

The man was suspicious. "Then what's the gimmick?" The woman pointed to the inscription over the door. He squinted at the sign....