At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
I love the piece of Handel’s “Messiah” from Isaiah that says, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” When I was young, I thought the choir was singing, “Are we like sheep?” And I thought, “Yes, yes we are.” We are like sheep that often go astray.
Sheep are actually quite bright in that they are trainable, and they understand how to follow directions. Sheep are also very social. They need one another and are not meant to live alone. They are made to live in community. Sheep know the voice of their shepherd, and studies have shown they can recognize other voices too, and that they trust the voice of their shepherd and the voices of close sheep friends. Sheep are smart and will, in fact, run away from what scares them, but they know they are not safe left alone. Keeping socially distant from danger is important, but isolating from the other sheep isn’t good for them. They need one another.
They are us aren’t they? That’s us in a nutshell. Especially right now.
Think about where we are today during this pandemic. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We are His flock. As our reading says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” In addition to Jesus, there are other voices, intelligent people making wise decisions on behalf of us, the flock. We are doing our best to listen, to process their messages and follow their advice, for how we live affects not just us but our entire community.
Like sheep, we are social creatures; we need each other. How blessed are we to live in a generation where technology allows us to stay connected, even if we can’t gather physically with one another? It is a gift to be sure.
During these difficult days, listening to the right voice matters. We must ask ourselves: Who is leading our thoughts and responses during this pandemic? Who do we trust to provide the facts?
I pray that you have a flock right now to comfort you. I pray that the voices in your life that you listen to are wise. And may the Good Shepherd who loved His flock so much that He gave His life for them grant you peace during these difficult days.
Look upon us gently, Lord,
for waiting is not our forte.
So many other things are…
Things like moving ahead,
fixing what’s wrong,
planning for what’s next,
diagnosing the problem,
cramming more into a day
than one person can possibly do
before the sun goes down.
when we are waiting for the light to shine
when we are waiting for the Word,
when we are waiting for a wound to heal,
nothing in all the world is harder than waiting.
So, in your mercy, Lord,
wait with us.
Be our very present help in waiting.
Heal our frenzy.
Calm our fears.
Comfort those who at this very minute
are with every anxious break and thought
waiting for they know-not-what.
Transform our in-the-meantime
into your time,
while we wait with each other,
sit with each other,
pray each other into hope,
surrounded by your presence,
even in the darkness.
Especially in the darkness.