The last verse of a reading from 1st Peter (chapter 2: 19-end) this morning links it to today’s theme of the Good Shepherd:
“…. you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
Viewing an electric fence on a walk yesterday, which was there for cattle rather than sheep, I imagine, one can understand how the straying of animals across an area, maybe even quite a large area, brings the twin problems of not being able to manage the pasture, as well as the danger of losing animals.
This year on Good Shepherd Sunday we read the early verses of chapter 10 of John’s Gospel which draw our attention to Christ as the ‘gate’ of the sheep, rather than picking up the picture of the 23rd Psalm of being the Shepherd. The meaning is closely related, but it opens up an image of and entrance-way which is also an exit - a door which opens both ways.
This is a concept that it is good to think of, as we may perhaps see the drawing into the fellowship - into the Church, if you like - of our Lord as the gate as simply a one-way directional door. This brings comfort and security with it. However, and we don’t need a pandemic crisis to remind ourselves of the fact, that the sheep also need to go out and find pasture. They wouldn’t survive long just in the pen!
So, the world is out there and its needs are as great as ever. The security of the gate to the sheepfold is ever there, but the open expanses of the world are the places in which we live and express ourselves and our faith. Christ stands in blessing, and shepherding our goings out and our comings in. Thanks be to God!