Sunday 3 May 2020
from Fr David

John 10.1-10

Coming from a farming community (albeit a Lincolnshire one) I felt I knew a bit about sheep. During lockdown I’ve learnt a whole lot more. And not just about sheep. 5 weeks in and I discover what a Boris is. I thought that my friends on Facebook had made a reference I had missed and were now using it each day as some sort of joke or pun. Little did I know that going for a Boris is going for daily exercise, as detailed by the Prime Minister – Boris.

Well, on our daily Boris I’ve learnt much more about sheep. Around here there are many and over the past few weeks we’ve seen the lambs begin to grow and fatten up. We have noticed, too, the straggly, grumpy-looking sheep, the fluffy cotton-wool-cartoon-style sheep and all the others in between.

In this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of John we begin the discourse about sheep. We’ll all be familiar with several biblical references and, not least, the beautiful language and imagery of Psalm 23 (also set for Sunday morning this week). The problem for me is that I don’t especially want to be a sheep. I’ve seen them run at the least worry, wander aimlessly in the way of traffic on the roads and get stuck in gaps in hedges which are too small for them. They don’t seem especially bright to me. I don’t much fancy being one.

Herein, then, lies a problem. Human imagery, metaphors and similes (if we can remember the difference despite it being drilled into many of us at school) are all flawed in some way. There is no perfect way to describe our relationship to God and, indeed, to each other. However we dress it up or try and explain it using imagery and so forth we find a stumbling point. This can remind us that we, as humans, are never going to find perfection, at least not until we know it in God’s Kingdom. We can never fully know God even though, Psalm 139 reminds us, God fully knows us, and always has done.

With the shortfall of adequate imagery and description we will sometimes have to accept what we can see, or what we can feel, for what it is. At the moment, in all honesty, it’s pretty rubbish. Lives are unsettled and displaced, danger lurks whenever we venture outside our homes if, indeed we are able to. There are any number of troubles and concerns in our midst and there’s very little any of us can do, or say, to make it better.

Whatever our doubts and fears, wherever we allow our idle minds to wander as we try to imagine a future, it’s vital to remember that we are cared for by our generous, creator God. It’s God who guides us and it’s so important to listen for that divine shepherd’s voice. We don’t, perhaps, need to be sheep – although my current hair arrangement could do with shearing – but we do need guidance. We, also, need to know that we are loved – and so is everyone else.

The Lord is our shepherd – there is nothing we shall want.