Maybe it’s because the rain had stopped briefly, but for some reason the lambs (at least the 6 oldest) were having the time of their (short) lives this afternoon in their new pasture! We managed to pick some of it up on video, and then middle daughter did the editing and added the music. Enjoy!
our sheep increasing by thousands, myriads of sheep in our fields.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday, for the readings focus on how our risen Lord Jesus is our shepherd who leads us to eternal life. But of course the flip side of the Lord being our shepherd is that we are sheep. We sometimes miss the humor of the Lord calling us sheep. The Lord could have said we were strong and swift as horses, beautiful as gazelles, or brave as lions. But, instead, he said we are like sheep. I guess I’ve been called worse but it’s a little humbling and embarrassing really. And yet sheep are worthwhile animals and they have a certain quality that makes them pretty smart, as we shall see. Are you smarter than a sheep? Well, lets look and see how we stack up as we look at this gospel in three stages.
I. The Situation of the Sheep – In this Gospel the Lord is speaking to pharisees and seeking almost to reassure them that he is not like other false shepherds, false messiahs, who have led many astray in recent years. Jesus says, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. …All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them…. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.
The times in which Jesus lived were times of great social unrest and political turmoil. There were heightened expectations of a coming messiah who would liberate Israel from its Roman and Herodian oppressors. Given the climate of the times, most had emphasized the role of the messiah as a political and economic liberator who would come and wage war and victoriously reestablish the Davidic Monarchy in all its worldly glory.
Josephus, A Jewish historian of the time may have exaggerated, but only a little when he spoke of 10,000 insurrections in the years leading up to the Jewish War with the Romans (which took place from 66 – 70 AD). Even as early as Jesus’ lifetime there had been conflicts and bloody uprisings led by numerous false messiahs. It is most likely to these that Jesus refers as thieves and robbers. It is also the likely explanation of why Jesus resisted being called Messiah except in very specific circumstances (Matt 16:16,20; Mk 8:30; Mk
Jesus also warned that after he ascended that false Messiahs would continue to plague the land:
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. (Matt 24:24-26)
Ultimately these false Christs did arise and mislead many and the results were horrible. Josephus says that 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in the Jewish War with the Romans.
So here is the situation of the sheep. And Jesus speaks of the dangers of false messiahs, false saviors and unambiguously denounces them as thieves and robbers. We too, are in a world were many false and erroneous philosophies, messiahs and “saviors” seek to claim our loyalties and engage us in their error. Perhaps it is the false claims materialism which says the right combination of wealth and power can bring meaning and happiness. Perhaps it is the error of secular, socialism and atheistic communism, which exalts the State and puts its importance above God. Perhaps it is the arrogance of modern times which claims a special enlightenment over previous eras (such as the biblical era) which were “less enlightened and tolerant.” Perhaps it is the promiscuity of this age which claims sexual liberty for itself but never counts the cost in broken lives, broken families, STDs, AIDS, high divorce rates, teenage pregnancy, abortion and on and on.
Yes, the sheep are still afflicted and false philosophies and messiahs abound. Jesus calls them thieves and marauders (robbers) for they want to steal from us what the Lord has given and harm us by leading us astray. He their wish is ultimately to slaughter and destroy. Do not be misled by the soft focus of these wolves in sheep’s clothes, by their message of “tolerance” and humanitarian concern. A simple look at the death toll in the 20th century from such ideologies with show the actual wolf lurking behind these foolish and evil trends which have misled the flock.
And as for these false shepherd remember this, not one of them ever died for you. Only Jesus did that.
II. The Shepherd of the Sheep – Having rejected false shepherds, Jesus now goes on to describe himself as the true Shepherd:
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.“
Now this passage tells us not only of the true Shepherd, but also his true sheep. For the true Shepherd is sent by the Father who is the gatekeeper and has opened the way for the Son, and True Shepherd. The Father has confirmed the Son by signs and wonders and by the fulfillment of prophesies in abundance.
And of the true sheep the Lord says that they not only recognize his voice, but also that they will run from a stranger because they do not recognize their voice.
In sheep herding areas flocks belonging to different shepherds are often brought together in fenced off areas for the night, especially in the cooler months. And one may wonder how shepherds can tell which sheep belong to which shepherd. Ultimately the sheep sort themselves out. For in the morning a shepherd will go to the gate and call, with a chant like call, his sheep. Those that recognize his voice will run to him, those that do not will recoil in fear. Now that’s pretty smart actually. Sheep may not know how to go to the moon and back, but they DO know their master’s voice.
And so the question for us is, are you smarter than a sheep?
Sheep have the remarkable quality of knowing their master’s voice and of instinctively fearing any other voice and fleeing from it. In this matter, it would seem that sheep are smarter than most of us. For we do not flee voices contrary to Christ. Instead we draw close and say, “Tell me more.” In fact we spend a lot of time and money to listen to other voices. We spend huge amounts of money to buy televisions so that the enemy’s voice can influence us and our children. We spend large amounts of time with TV, radio, Internet. And we can so easily be drawn to the enemy’s voice.
And not only do we NOT flee it, but we feast on it. And instead of rebuking it we turn and rebuke the voice of God and put his Word on trial instead of putting the world on trial.
The goal for us is to be more wary, like sheep and to recognize only one voice, that of the Lord speaking though his Church, and to flee every other voice.
Are you smarter than a sheep? You decide.
III. The Salvation of the Sheep – The text says, Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
And here then is the description of the Christian life: Acceptance, access, and abundance.
- Acceptance – the text says we must enter through the gate, and the gate is Christ. We are invited to accept the offer of being baptized into Christ Jesus. In today’s first reading from Acts, Peter and the other apostles are asked by the repentant and chastened crowd: “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. Yes we are invited to enter through the gate, to be baptized into Christ Jesus, for he is the gate and the way to the Father.
- Access – in accepting baptism we enter through the gate and now have access to the wide and green pastures. Jesus describes this entry as being saved. Now we tend to think of salvation rather abstractly, almost as if we were now in some new legal category, having gone from being guilty to having the charges dismissed. But this is only a very partial understanding of salvation. For the Greek word σωθήσεται (sothesetai) more fully means to be “safe, rescued,” delivered out of danger and into safety. The word in the New Testament is used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and bring them into his into His safety and grace. So, being saved is more than changing legal categories, it is new life! It is power over sin, it is being kept safe from the poison of sin and its terrible enslaving effects. Salvation is also related to the concept of health (salus = health and well being). Hence for the believer who accepts Christ’s offer, now there is access to the protected pasture, there is supply or provision of grazing land too. For the Lord feeds his faithful and brings them strength. Yes, there is access to God’s many gifts.
- Abundance – The Lord concludes by saying that he came that we might have life more abundantly. And here is the fundamental purpose of all he did: that we might live more abundantly. Abundant life is really the root of what is meant by eternal life. For eternal does not refer merely to the length of life, but even more, to the fullness of life. And while we will not enjoy this fully until heaven it DOES begin now and we, through Christ our good shepherd become gradually, more fully alive. I am fifty and my body in some physical sense is less alive, but my soul is more alive than ever! I have more joy, more confidence, more peace, and contentment. I struggle less with many sins and have a greater capacity to love and to forgive. The Lord has granted this by giving me access to his pasture and his grace, and feeding me there. I am more abundantly alive at fifty than I ever was at twenty. Yes, the Lord came that we might have life more abundantly – I am a witness of this. Eternal life has already begun in me and is growing day by day.
So, are you smarter than a sheep? Then run to Jesus. Flee every other voice. Enter the sheepfold and let him give you life
These two little girls can just steal the show sometimes! But they need names! I showed my girls a clip of Laverne and Shirley, hoping they’d see why I keep going back to those names, and though they laughed at the show, they just couldn’t bring themselves to agree to those names!
So, maybe we should forget about trying to come up with names that go together? I don’t know, I’m just at a loss!
About the only distinguishing feature between the two of them is that one has a pink nose, and the other a black nose! Not much to go on!So, leave us a comment with your ideas!
Not long after we moved onto our country property, I thought I’d amble over and see Fred Number Two. We had just bought the property from Fred Number one, and I thought it best to get to know both Freds, since they were our new neighbors and being neighborly was, of course, one of the hallmarks of country folk. So […]
Dr WIker has captured so well what it means to be a transplant to the country! Our town is a mixture of families who have been here for multiple generations and transplants from cities and towns who move in and see the beauty of the area, but then complain in the spring when the manure spread on the fields over the winter starts blowing it’s presence across the road! All of a sudden the country has lost it’s charm for them! I’ve heard local farmers complaining about this, so you can see why they might be suspicious when someone new like our family moves in!
Of course news of our arrival in North Stonington traveled fast. “Who are those people who moved up on the hill?” “Yeah – they’re on the old Arbor Acres chicken farm!” “They have 8 kids – I think they’re all adopted!” “They’re starting a farm!? Ha! We’ll see how that works out!” “They’re building a barn?” And then slowly, we’ve met people…some who grew up here and remember the old farm that was here…many who worked here when they were teenagers, cutting and baling hay, working at the poultry farm. The stories are incredible, and you try to picture what things used to be like here. Some of the old timers seem appreciative that we are trying to return this property to a farm, and I think they are quite surprised to see what we’ve done so far! And so we feel that we are slowly being accepted – at least as farmer wanna-be’s.
We’ll never reach the prestigious farmer status of those who’s families have been here for generations, but just to rub elbows with them from time to time is an honor for us. We have great respect for these third, fourth and even fifth generation farmers of North Stonington. They are smart, resourceful and kind people…salt of the earth.
Anyway — check out Dr Wiker’s article when you have time. It’s quite entertaining!
Well, we’ve come to the end of this chapter. All of the ewes have had their lambs. Millie and her lambs have returned to the flock. We’ve opened a brand new pasture. We’ve been working for the past 2 weeks fencing in 1/3 of our back yard, and our labors have paid off. Tonight we tagged Millie’s twins, released them all back to the flock, and then turned the flock out into the new pasture for an hour of grazing. They were in heaven! The grass is thick and lush, peppered with plenty of clover and dandelion greens…
Last night around 10:30pm, before turning in, I checked everyone and found Millie walking around, apart from the other ewes. The thought crossed my mind that she could be in early labor, but I had no strong reason to believe so. Apparently she was!
We’re working on some names for our lambs these days as we patiently wait with Millie for her lambing day…Looks like I lost the Lily vs. Daisy contest with Matilda’s lamb, who seems to be a favorite around here because she’s so people-friendly after we spent 3 nights with her when she was born! Even though we got a couple of votes for Lily, it was too little, too late. Everyone’s been calling her Daisy in the meantime, and I just have to concede.
Of course when our second white ewe lamb was born, everyone was happy to let me call it Lily, but they just didn’t get it! THAT lamb wasn’t born Easter weekend! It would be crazy to call it Lily! Since this lamb was Roxanne’s first lamb, and since Roxanne was named after Granddad’s favorite name, from the story of Cyrano, we asked Granddad for a name for her. At the time, eldest daughter was writing a paper comparing Queen Esther to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She had sent the paper to Granddad for critiquing, and he said, “Why not call her Esther?”
I’ve been thinking of chocolaty names for this little sweetie, but then started thinking words for “brown.” I settled upon the Icelandic name for brown, Brúna!
As for this little boy, we’re not sure about naming him. We had previously decided not to name ram lambs because we’re not sure they’ll be staying in the flock.. He’s so gorgeous, though…
Then we have these two, whom I’ve nicknamed the “troublemakers.” They always seem up to something, if they’re not catapulting themselves off Mom’s back, they’re racing around waking up the others to play!
The girls keep thinking of names, but so far nothing has really stuck. They are so alike in their markings, that it would be cute to name them something that goes together, like Laverne and Shirley! Any ideas? Leave a comment!And so we wait for Millie to give us perhaps 2 more lambs to name! Her next due date, assuming she was bred on her third heat cycle (maybe Clancy wasn’t tall enough to breed her until then??), would be May 14-16…this weekend! Her udder is pinker and fuller, so maybe this time we’ll be right!
One of the cutest things to watch is when a lamb suddenly realizes he doesn’t know where Mom is. Of course she, like all moms, has eyes in the back of her head seems to know where her lambs are and when the lamb’s call for Mom is urgent, and when it’s not and she can go right on munching grass. Obviously, this was one of those moments, as she’s up on the hill with a couple of other ewes, eating to her heart’s content! Of course the lamb doesn’t seem THAT upset either, as he distracts himself with the chickens and a brieflie down. But in the end, he spots his sister getting up from a nap and makes a bee line for her, in turn finding Mom. By the way, it was everything I could do not to turn off the camera and go pick him up and carry him to her! (sorry about the background noise – it’s SO windy here today!)