Greed erects a wall—brick by brick, thing by thing—between us and God, us and the friend, us and the family, us and the earth. In the realm of greed, all we want is what we don’t have and—brick by brick, thing by thing—what we already have that most matters can no longer been seen, heard, or (after so many bricks are stacked) even remembered.
Few Biblically inspired images are as enduring and essential to Judeo-Christian tradition as the one who cares for sheep.
The shepherd . . .
Moses tended his father-in-law’s flock of sheep when the burning bush interrupted his day and his life.
David the King was first the slingshot-wielding defender who protected sheep from wild animals and confronted Goliath.
Or, a shepherd/sheep image that you remember from the Bible is (fill in the blank) . . . ___________________________________.
The 4th Sunday of Easter – for May 15, 2011
“ . . . and the sheep hear his voice . . .” (John 10:3)
And so it was and so it is that all who follow Jesus, all who are part of the Christian heritage of servanthood and discipleship, can be known as . . . cloven-hoofed, two-stomached, dim-witted, herd-oriented, oft-fleeced, and frequently smelly.
I resist the sheep label. I’ve seen sheep sheered (say that fast, twice!) and all things considered I’d rather be the sheerer than the sheered. One of my heroes is naturalist John Muir. You can thank him for our National Parks. In the mid-1800s, Muir cursed destruction of the valleys and meadows of California’s Sierra Nevada by the wooly ruminant. Indeed, Muir referred to sheep as “hoofed locusts.” If sheep wander into a glorious alpine meadow or your weed-infested backyard, soon both places will look pretty much the same: picked clean, barren, and nary a wildflower or weed to be seen. Heck, after sheep do their thing, you’d need a microscope to find a blade of grass.
Sheep. I shudder.
And aren’t shepherds and sheep out-of-date anyway? Most of us have seen more pictures of sheep than spent time around them. Ask ten people where wool comes from and how many will say “sheep” and how many “Macys?” As an annual ritual, I’ve listened to Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor retell the Christmas story. His version transformed the lowly Bethlehem-based shepherds into parking lot attendants. After all, how many Booroola Merino or American Blackbelly sheep have you “tended” compared to Honda Accords or Ford F150 pick-ups? Would you rather imagine yourself as a Prius or a Priangan, a Mercedez Benz or a Medium-Wool Merino? Continue reading →
Faith is forested with metaphorical trees. What was in the middle of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve? Don’t some of the gospel hymns mournfully (and tunefully) declare that Jesus was hung on a tree? Isaiah 55 imagines “the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
My olde and moldy hardbound Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (still used enough not to be too dusty), lists more references in the Bible for trees than treasure.
Biblically speaking, when I think of trees, I prefer them literal. They are good for me to read about. Most healthy trees will outlive me. They have deeper roots. I envy their branches. Secretly, I watch them dance. Trees have much to teach. Stop and pay attention. Trees are a treasure.