The heart of any shepherd is to reconcile, to gather, to unite yet the culture seems scattered by controversial shepherds and angry sheep empowered by churches that divide and condemn. How do we shepherd in tense places and help to heal the world until there is “one flock and one shepherd?”
Throughout the story of Exodus God is “with” his people in the form of a fire and a cloud. And as long as he is, Israel is safe. How does this inform the ministry of Presence for a shepherd? Why is the presence of some so powerful, and others … well, not? When is Presence most important? And how does one practice it with increasing skill?
From the previous sermons on shepherding, one could almost forget that it’s sometimes hard and frustrating work. The challenges, the risks, the raw emotion that comes with caring for others can discourage us or tempt us to stay with only the most compliant. From Moses life comes these lessons for navigating the challenges of this good, but sometimes frustrating work.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses expresses hopes for a future he will not even see; a soon-coming-day in which others will partake in the dream Moses worked for. In that climate, Moses concerns himself less about threats from without, or even threats from beside. He warns about the enemy within. Along with Jesus in Luke 12, Moses is keenly aware that sometimes what sheep need protecting from are the things that come naturally to them (but are bad for them). This sermon will explore God’s invitation to learn to protect our sheep, even from themselves.
The study and pursuit of good leadership is big business today. Companies spend over $50 billion annually developing it. But leadership becomes something different when it’s done by a shepherd, and done in the context of the other three disciplines (know, feed and protect).
Like Moses, we look at the people God has entrusted to us and are quickly overwhelmed by their needs. Then we hear God say, “Give them something to eat,” (Matt. 14:16), but we don’t know where to find it. In these parallel stories – the feeding of Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 16) and the feeding of the multitude in the desert (Matt. 14) – we begin to see how shepherds learn to feed their people.
The first practice of a shepherd is to develop trust in the sheep. Empathy (or “knowing”) is the place where trust begins, yet empathy is hard to come by these days. How do we develop empathy when society is pulling us further apart? Here are three routines we can build into our schedule, without doing anything more, that will increase our capacity to “know” another person.
Something happens when we notice we notice what’s happening. We see things (or people) that others don’t see. And we see them, not because we’re looking for them, but because we’re looking into them, where no one else is looking. Who are the people God wants us to notice? What are we looking for? And what does God want us to do with them? In this message, we’ll discover who, exactly, God wants us to shepherd.
Even though the term is unpopular, people are still looking for a shepherd and that’s why they’re so critical of their leaders. When God raises up a shepherd, the people have a future with possibilities they didn’t have before. Maybe the work inside our jobs begins with shepherding.