Rev. James Abrams
Imagine a large stone enclosure at one end of a lush field; its walls are 3-4 feet high. One narrow opening faces the rolling pasture ahead. The sky transitions from orange, to purple, then to pink as the sun sets. Three flocks of sheep are safely tucked away within the stone walls of the enclosure. Herdsmen sit along the wall sharing their adventures; two struggle to make a fire, while the third makes himself comfortable in the doorway. He's tonight's 'gatekeeper.' He'll spend this night stretched out across the doorway to keep sheep from wandering out in the night. He is the last line of defense against the predator. He secures the sheep by his own position as if to say, "You can harm these sheep over my dead body." The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
"I am the good shepherd," Jesus said, "I know my own and my own know me." As unnatural as it sounds, the Good Shepherd has developed quite an affection for the helpless animals. With several flocks mixed together in a single pen for the night, a good shepherd might often assign names to his sheep and call after each one (Patch, Fluffy, Snowflake, Sweater, Bashful, Happy, Sleepy, Comet). As the sheep recognize the sound of their master's voice, they separate themselves from the common mass, join their respective flock and follow the voice they know.
Indulge me in a bit of sheep psychology. You see, it's not just the recognition of the voice that draws the sheep, rather the voice represents a more important aspect of the sheep/shepherd relationship. Sheep follow the familiar voice of their shepherd because that voice represents a:
- character they've learned to trust
- a person who brings them to green pastures
- a shepherd who leads them to quiet pools of refreshing, life giving water
- a Savior who shields them and saves them from danger
- and a master who provides an adventurous, exciting, full and abundant life.
We live in a loud world that consistently clamors for us to follow its direction. The atmosphere is filled with noise from before we wake until long after we've drifted off to sleep. The season of Lent provides us with an opportunity to minimize noisy distractions and pause long enough to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd. Lent becomes a season of training where we exercise our ears of faith and tune them to recognize the sound of Jesus calling our name.
Take some time today and withdraw from the noisy distractions that attract your attention. Commit some time to prayerfully listening for the voice of The Good Shepherd calling you out of the crowded pen to follow him. Practice training your ears of faith to recognize his voice. You can trust his heart.
Speak Lord, and I will listen... Lead Lord, and I will follow...