Sermon of the Week:
You Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Fourth Sunday of Easter #pcusa
Keywords: Aussies, The Good Shepherd, Cheers, Power of a Name, Gospel of John
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
Our family has been talking A LOT about shepherds this week,
but it wasn’t because of this passage from the Gospel According to John.
We’ve been considering adding another pup to our family mix
for a couple of months now
and, yesterday, we adopted a playful and goofy Australian Shepherd named Ryder.
Leading up to all this, I did a lot of research about Aussies, among other breeds.
Was a bit nervous, you know,
not just about Aussies, but about any new dog.
Would they get along with our other pup Annie?
Would they be good with our girls, our neighbors, our couches? All open questions still.
So we looked at all sorts of dogs,
mainly medium-small size pups,
dogs who could both go on a good long walk
and hang out while watching tv
and we fell hard for this Australian Shepherd Ryder.
Turns out they’re not from Australia at all.
Their roots go back to American Ranches in the 1800s,
possibly related to English shepherds and border collies.
The most likely story is that they were introduced
to help herd sheep that were being imported from Australia at the time,
and thus the name.
Like many shepherding breeds, they’re attentive and smart and active
and Aussies reportedly have a high drive to please,
so, needless to say, we’re excited,
even if we might look a bit tired this morning
with the introduction of a 9 month old puppy around here.
These are new surroundings.
We have to earn his trust, go easy with him,
show him we’re dependable and have his best interests at heart.
I have some training to do;
mainly I need to train myself, so I can help train him.
When you research the breed, you find some great youtube videos out there
of Aussies herding sheep.
When THAT’s their job, wow, watch out: they run fast and true,
and can keep hundreds of animals in the right place at the right time.
Some of those videos show the dogs guiding the sheep to stick together,
and somehow they get all those sheep to move as one gigantic horde
as the dogs guide them safely into their pen,
often through what seems to be an impossibly narrow gate,
at least when you’re talking about that many animals.
We don’t have sheep around here, at our house in suburban Kansas City,
so we’ll have to work up some other job for him to do.
Some of the literature suggests asking them
to pick up your dirty clothes off the floor and taking them to the hamper,
and I think we would LOVE some of that around here, if Ryder is up for it.
Truth be told, this is all another way to say
that I don’t know all that much about real shepherds,
the kind of work it takes to actually keep sheep and other livestock
on the straight and narrow.
I am, admittingly, a creature of the city and the suburb,
and even though I spent the first twelve years of my life
in some teeny-tiny towns in rural Iowa
and there are some cute pictures of me as a kid at county fairs
doing kiddy tractor pulls or enjoying Windsor chops on a stick,
we still lived in the town town, you know?
The farm life is largely foreign to me.
Some of you have more experience of the farm than I do.
But if you’re more like me,
then these passages about Jesus as a shepherd,
as the GOOD shepherd,
take a bit of translation to get your head around.
That’s ok. We all have our own histories and our own experiences,
and I value farmers and am so grateful for those who work the land, raise animals.
I just don’t have the innate connection
with these stories that they might have,
or, for that matter, that the gospel writer’s audience would have had.
The biblical world was a much more agrarian world.
Both sheep and the shepherding profession,
the people, not just the pups,
were common parts of everyday society back in Jesus’ day,
and more generally in the biblical period.
As a result, you see mentions of sheep all over the place in the Bible.
The people writing and listening to these stories would just get it, naturally.
Sometimes there are references to actual herds of livestock,
and other times, like today, this is offered more as a metaphor
about people and their leaders, or about who God is in relation to us.
The most famous of these passages is the 23rd Psalm,
The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want…
He maketh me lie down in green pastures
He leadeth me beside still waters
He restoreth my soul… [Read more…]