We Are His Flock

May 7, 2017

We Are His Flock

The following is a story by Dr. John Lentz:

A man decided his wife was getting hard of hearing. So, he called her doctor to make an appointment to have her hearing checked. The doctor said he could see her in two weeks, but meanwhile there was a simple, informal test the husband could do to give the doctor some idea of the dimensions of the problem.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Stand about 40 feet away from her, and speak in a normal conversational tone and see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.”

That evening his wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he’s in the living room, and he says to himself, “I’m about 40 feet away, let’s see what happens.”

“Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

So he moves to the other end of the room, about 30 feet away.

“Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

So he moves into the dining room, about 20 feet away. “Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

On to the kitchen door, only 10 feet away. “Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

So, he walks right up behind her. “Honey, what’s for supper?”

She turns around and says, “For the FIFTH time, CHICKEN!!!!”

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes in our lives?  We think we’re asking God for guidance but don’t hear His response. Maybe we don’t hear His response because we don’t really expect Him to answer or we’re not listening for His voice because it is obscured by the sounds of voices uttering more enticing message

Sometimes, we have selective hearing – we hear what we only want to hear.

Or we act as if we are listening but really our attention is elsewhere. You’ve had that feeling, haven’t you, when someone is giving you eye attention but you know they are not listening, not hearing you at all? It is infuriating. And I know I do it myself so I hereby ask for blanket forgiveness from you for the times I’ve done it myself.

Today’s passage is all about listening and hearing – following the voice of Jesus.

In our reading today, we learn of Jesus’ role as the shepherd as well as the gate for the sheep. To understand what He’s referring to, we need to understand how shepherds worked in Palestine.

Sheep definitely knew their master’s voices. Unlike many countries that raised sheep for meat, in Palestine, shepherds raised their sheep for wool and would often have many of the same sheep in their flock for many years. They would even give them names. The shepherds would speak loudly to their sheep in a special sing-song language of their own creation. The sheep would recognize the voice of their master and be attracted by it, but would be repelled by the voice of a stranger.

Author and journalist H.V. Morton recounts a scene he witnessed in a cave near Bethlehem. “Two shepherds had sheltered their flocks in a cave during the night. How were the flocks to be sorted out? One of the shepherds stood some distance away and gave his peculiar call which only his own sheep knew, and soon his whole flock had run to him, because they knew his voice. They would have come for no one else, but they knew the call of their own shepherd. An eighteenth century traveler actually tells how Palestinian sheep could be made to dance, quick or slow, to the peculiar whistle or the peculiar tune on the flute of their own shepherd.”

Jesus’ role as the gate for the sheep seems very obvious. It simply seems to mean that through Jesus, we, the sheep, are able to enter God’s Kingdom. Again, to understand being a shepherd in Palestine magnifies the meaning of this statement. When sheep were out in the country in the summer months, they would be gathered, not behind the safety of a locked gate as they would have in the developed towns. They would be gathered at night into a sheep fold, a large fence with no door. After the shepherd had gathered his sheep in the fold for the night, he would lie down across the opening of the fence. Anything entering or exiting would have to go over him. He was literally the gate that would let His sheep in and out and ensure their safety and security.  This is what Jesus is referring to when he calls himself the gate. Only by going through Him can we get to God and live abundant, full lives in safety and security.  Only through Christ can we come to know God’s love and forgiveness and the liberating security of being in His hands. If God is with us, who or what can there be to fear?

How can He be our shepherd, leading us to God so we can know Him and live with the feeling of absolute security that comes from placing ourselves completely in His hands? We are His sheep. We know His voice. His is different than any other voice we will ever hear. We will not hear it in those who tell us that success if defined by our bank accounts, our assets or our careers. We hear it in our hearts when we are compelled to show love, compassion, generosity, honesty and hope to those who are in need.  We feel it in our souls when we feel hope after despair, love that remains after the object of that love is gone, joy from seeing the beautiful things His children can do.  We will follow His voice and come to know Him and through Him we will know God.

Football start Tim Tebow is quoted as having said this:  “You and I were created by God to be so much more than normal. Following the crowd is not a winning approach to life. In the end it’s a loser’s game, because we never become who God created us to be by trying to be like everybody else.”

We are gathered here in the fold, together as Jesus’ flock. We have come through the gate and now live under the safety of His protection. As soon as we leave this building, we are like one of the two flocks forced into the same small cave for shelter. When our Lord calls to us each day, will we hear Him and go to Him by doing His work? Will we take the risk of showing God’s love and care in times when many would not because we know we belong to God and He whispers in our hearts? The choices we make may be markedly different from those of many others, those of a different flock, but let us be His flock and follow the sound of His loving direction so others will see our bravery, our confidence and our joy and follow us to Him.

Norma Goff