Jesus is the Good Shepherd by Pastor Bob Gochenour (6-29-14)

Scriptures: John 10:1-10; Psalm 23

 

High in the mountains of North Wales lives a shepherd named John Jones.

He is joined by a black and white sheepdog named Mack.

Together they move 100 sheep to green pastures, still waters, on right paths, and thru dark valleys.

John Jones was the master shepherd—assisted by Mack.

Mack, a champion Scottish collie was in his glory.

He came from a long line of working dogs; he had sheep in his blood.

This is what he was made for; this is what he had been trained to do.

It was a marvelous thing to see Mack work:

Circling to the right, circling to the left, barking, crouching, racing along, herding a stray sheep here, nipping at a stubborn sheep there, his eyes always glued to the sheep, his ears listening for the tiny metal whistle from his master.

The whistle was tuned to the dog’s ears—humans could not hear it.

Their most difficult task was dipping the sheep in antiseptic.

This chore must be done on a regular basis to rid the sheep of pests, parasites, and infections.

The sheep hated this discipline and resisted mightily.

John and Mack knew that it must be done for sheep to thrive.

John and Mack moved the 100 sheep to the dipping pens.

When all the sheep had been shut behind the gates, the black and white sheepdog Mack tore around the outside of the pens and took up his position at the dipping trough.

Mack was frantic with expectation—waiting for the chance to leap into action.

One by one John seized the rams by their curled horns and hurled them into the antiseptic.

They would struggle to climb out the side but Mack would snarl and snap at their faces to force them back in.

Each ram had to be held under the antiseptic—ears, eyes, noses for a few seconds.

When the rams had been dipped, John and Mack had to gather the ewes for the same procedure.

John the shepherd was in charge.

Mack the sheepdog was obedient.

Mack was skilled as a sheepdog: sometimes tearing at top speeds around the flock, Mack would jam on “four-wheeled” brakes.

Mack always had his eyes on the sheep: his body tense, quivering, eyes blazing, but always obedient to the command to stop.

What the shepherd saw the sheepdog could not see: the weak ewe that lagged behind, the ram caught in a bush, the danger that lay ahead, and the lost sheep.

I tell you this story for two reasons.

First, I was one of those lost sheep.

I was raised in the church from my childhood: 1st Methodist Church in Morristown, New Jersey.

But when I turned 13, I ran away from God and the church.

I decided that I didn’t need God. I decided that God wasn’t real.

I decided that I was smart enough and strong enough to manage my own life: I was on a journey of self-determination.

Looking back, I was nothing more than a dumb sheep rebelling against the Shepherd.

I did not know the dangers that lay ahead of me.

I did not know the dangers that surrounded me at that time.

I was confident that I could handle them myself. I was wrong!

The Good Shepherd knew better than I did: he sent out his sheepdogs to find me.

Some have called these the “hounds of heaven.”

They are the faithful sheepdogs that will never quit until a strayed/lost sheep is found.

The “hounds of heaven” for me were my faithful friends in my youth group: they patiently prayed for me, invited me, nagged me, put up with my elitism & pride.

They confronted me with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

At the age of 15, I returned to the sheepfold.

I discovered the resurrected Jesus: the Good Shepherd.

The second reason I tell you this story about John and Mack is because I was called to be a sheepdog.

At the age of 16, I heard the Good Shepherd calling me to become a sheepdog—to become one of the “hounds of heaven” searching for other lost sheep; those people who are lost in a dangerous world.

I felt called to help others find the Good Shepherd.

During my 30 years of pastoral ministry, I have discovered that this is my role as a servant of Jesus—I am a sheepdog.

This poem summarizes this high calling:

 

“Called to be sheepdogs”

Remember, you are not the shepherd of the flock.

The flock already has a shepherd.

You are just a sheepdog.

Consider some of the perils that can turn a

good sheepdog into a worthless mutt.

Some sheepdogs become lap dogs.

Some sheepdogs love the sound of their own bark.

Some sheepdogs become obsessed with scratching fleas.

Some sheepdogs would rather chase rabbits than tend sheep.

Some sheepdogs spend more time watching the other sheepdogs than sheep.

Some sheepdogs decide they should be the shepherd of the flock.

The only way to avoid being a worthless mutt is to heed the Shepherd’s call to “tend my sheep.”

Let us resolve to do this so faithfully that someday we may hear the shepherd say, “Well done, good and faithful sheepdog…enter into the joy of your master.”

This poem describes a common danger in the modern church.

Sometimes, we call the pastor of the church: “the shepherd.”

Over the years I have discovered that this is not the Biblical model.

The Good Shepherd is Jesus Christ: the incarnated One, the crucified One, the resurrected One, and the glorified One.

From his high position in the heaven; Shepherd Jesus cares for his sheep—the church.

He selects sheep dogs to care for the sheep.

The local pastor is the sheepdog.

The only way to be a faithful sheepdog is to be like Mack.

Sheepdogs have to listen to the master.

Sheepdogs have to obey the master.

So also, Pastors must be obedient to Shepherd Jesus.

Modern America wants good leadership.

We want our leaders to lead us in and out of green pastures.

Every November we vote, hoping to elect good leaders.

Every year, we nominate gifted individuals to lead churches.

Every 4 years or so, we ask our Bishop to appoint good leaders to be our pastors.

We do not always find the leaders we want: the trust we place in our leaders can be easily broken.

This is true on the National level, the state level, the local level and in churches too.

It is a reality: we live in an imperfect world; full of flawed leaders.

It seems to be most difficult in the church for we expect more.

Pastors and churches do not always fit together.

We get all mixed up I our expectations, hopes, dreams, and beliefs.

Some miss the pastor who just left.

Some celebrate.

Some are unsure of the pastor who has just arrived.

Some despair.

The same is true for clergy: we rejoice for new opportunities, and we mourn for the people we loved that we have left behind.

So what do we do?

John 10 holds the answer: Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

No matter how many times a pastor (or any leader) changes: Jesus doesn’t change.

Jesus is still the Good Shepherd of Stephens City UMC.

We must understand that no pastor can ever take his place.

We must understand that Jesus is our leader; the pastor is just the sheepdog!

Sometimes, sheep get confused about this distinction.

They look to the pastor and say: this is God.

God has come to visit me today.

God preached a fine sermon today.

God taught a great Bible Study today.

The pastor is a really good shepherd: he/she will feed me, protect me, love me and save me.

This is wrong!

Sometimes, the pastor gets confused about this distinction.

Some Pastors encourage unhealthy relationships.

They act like God: they talk like they are the Good Shepherd.

They make church members dependent upon them so that the congregation cannot feed themselves.

They drive a wedge between Jesus and the congregation so that the only communication must go through the pastor.

They let their egos take over and act like they are the savior of the church. They have a Messiah complex.

This is wrong!

You know it is really cute when a 2 year old child looks up at me and says, “Hi, God.”

I understand what is happening.

The child with their limited understanding associates me with the goodness and holiness of God.

It is a real responsibility for me to not betray that trust.

But I also expect that child to grow up and understand in a few more years that I am not God—only God’s sheepdog.

It is really sad when adults maintain this same childish faith.

Too often, it leads them to accepting a poor substitute as their savior—false messiahs, bad shepherds, and false prophets.

This is what Jesus is talking about in John 10:1—many people follow thieves and bandits and not the Good Shepherd.

John 10 helps us to focus our discipleship.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Jesus calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Jesus goes ahead of them and the sheep follow because they know his voice.

Jesus is the gate to life.

Jesus said that whoever enters by Him will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus said that he came so the sheep will have abundant life.

I am just the sheepdog—I help the Good Shepherd by tending the sheep.

As your new sheepdog, I pledge three things to you.

1.  I will do my best to listen to the master’s whistle.

2.  I will be an obedient sheepdog.

3.  I will always point you to the only Good Shepherd: Jesus Christ.