John 10:1-10 (verse 4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Tomorrow is Good Shepherd Sunday in the church calendar. We read the 23rd Psalm, and the Gospel story is about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In this tough pandemic time, I’ve been thinking about what it is to be a shepherd, because, you know, it’s not all nice days on the moors, just us and the sheep. . . The sheep want to go left, but the good grass is to the right, and all the sheep begin to demonstrate and yell and scream, because they have a right to go left. . . Or the sheep can’t wait to get home to the sheepfold, but if we let them run amok, they’ll run over one another, and someone (many someones) will end up dead or injured. And it’s the job of shepherds to prevent that from happening.
It’s easy enough to see how our governors – Gov. Baker, especially – are functioning as shepherds right now, but we too have our shepherding tasks. Because, despite the metaphor, we’re really not sheep. But we do want to get back together; we want to see one another, we want to give and receive hugs. We want to sit down and hear a sermon, hear our own music, sing together, and afterwards – share a cup of coffee with the friends we miss so much.
But it’s not going to happen – yet. And we have to be shepherds to one another, to help keep us on track, so that it can happen. Around my neighborhood, more people are out and about. There’s more traffic on the streets. The local ice cream stand has opened and people are lining up for cones. You can’t eat ice cream with a mask on, you know. The only safe way is the thoughtful way – just how will we do this, how will we handle that?
I’m paying close attention to my colleagues and to the experts, remembering always two things – first, this has never happened this way before, so advice may and should change rapidly as we gather more knowledge. And second, if we allow our urge to be together to push us too quickly, we could all die. That’s a sobering thought.
There’s a lot of inflammatory stuff out there on the internet these days. People are frustrated and angry, and some folks – particularly folks who struggle with the concept of vaccinations – distrust all mainstream medical experts. Be careful about what you read or listen to; do your best to insure that you’re listening to the best experts for our place and time. That’s why I listen most closely to the medical folks around the governors for Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. And remember that as they learn more, their advice will evolve to deal with today’s challenges.
Here’s an example of how knowledge and suggestions are evolving. First we were urged to sanitize hymnals between services. Then someone suggested that instead, we should print the hymns out in the bulletins. And now, the best suggestion is that we shouldn’t sing together, because singing projects air so far out in front of our faces that if one of us has the covid coming on, we could all be infected.
Each of us is a shepherd for our own community, whether you see your community is our church, Wareham, or your household. We all have to make our decisions on how to be in the world based on the best knowledge we have right now. We have to keep up with what’s being discovered. We have to pay attention to the way our world is changing every day.
Easter blessings, Pastor Virginia