There is the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus as the shepherd goes after the one. Every one is important. This lesson is used to remind us of how much God loves us. He cares for us personally, intimately, wholeheartedly.
There is a concern I’m hearing about me leaving church. It is the concern that I am the lost sheep. The only problem with that is that I’m not a sheep. Or maybe I am – it depends on your definition of sheep.
Most people feel that sheep are very docile. They are seen as soft and sweet. In the cartoons they are depicted with big smiles. Sheep need a shepherd because they aren’t smart enough to get where they should be on their own.
In that sense, of course people should worry about me. In that sense, I’m a danger to myself if I wander. I could get lost. I could get hurt. I could fall into a ravine. Or worse, I could wander around aimlessly and never return.
This image of sheep is a false image. Have you ever gotten face to face with a sheep? They are not fluffy and sweet. They are fierce. They will face you down if you dare to get in their area. Sheep are not what you think. They are so much more.
When I went to Great Britain with my aunt we spent a lot of time in the country. We saw sheep from afar mostly, but one time I wanted to see a Roman ruin that was in the middle of a pasture. Those sheep were not happy with me being there. They faced me off. Sheep don’t smile. They glower. That was a terrifying experience. And an enlightening one. It let me know from personal experience that everything I’d been told about sheep wasn’t true, in the least.
Sheep need a shepherd? No. Sheep are able to get by just fine on their own, thank you very much. It is more honest to say that the shepherd needs the sheep. The sheep are his livelihood. He trains them to be dependent on him so that they don’t get ideas about wandering.
Jesus says that his sheep know his voice. They come to him when he calls. Have you ever thought that when a person leaves a church it is for that very reason? They don’t hear their master’s voice in that church. They leave because they want to follow Jesus, and they realize they aren’t hearing him while stuck inside a building, going through the same old rituals that have been performed for 2000 years.
I’m not saying that folks in my old church aren’t getting what they need there. I’m saying that I’m not. I’m saying that the closer I get to Jesus, the further I want to run from church. All church. The entire idea of church. But I don’t want church as it is. Church as it is feels dead. The Body is on life support. It isn’t alive.
I want community. I want sharing. I want natural growth and support. I want there to be no leader. I want everybody to participate. I want no money to be used for this. I want people to work hard on their faith and their life. I want people to listen to each other honestly and with caring. I want dialogue. I want people to feel free to share their different viewpoints.
Hurray for sheep. They aren’t what you think they are. They are much more.