John 10, 14-18
Something to read
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.'
New Revised Standard Version.
Something to think about
I haven't met any 'real' shepherds. But I have met a goatherd. Prema Ram lives in the remote area of Chadasani, Rajasthan in India. He used to be a labourer, but with a loan of 6,000 rupees (about £80) from Christian Aid partner SURE, he was able to buy five goats for breeding.
The males are sold and the females are kept so that Prema's whole family has nutritious milk and curd with enough left over to make ghee to sell. It was very obvious that Prema cared for his goats greatly, worrying if they would become sick or that other animals would harm them, but what struck me was how the presence of the goats gave joy and vitality to Prema; it was not a one-way relationship.
Jesus tells his friends that he is willing to lay down his life for them; not just for his immediate friends but for those outside the fold, too. Let us not forget that, for Jesus on a day-to-day basis, those outside the fold would include the Roman occupying forces; not exactly the fluffy lambs we see in Victorian Sunday School pictures on the shoulders of the good shepherd.
Jesus is willing to invite his oppressors into the fold and to die for them. All the sheep give joy and vitality to Jesus, not just the fluffy ones; it is not a one-way relationship.
Something to do
Think of people outside your immediate friendship circle and consider what you could do for them, as if they were your friends. It may be taking a cake to a homeless shelter, writing a letter to your MP in support of a sanctuary seeker or even giving a flower to a random stranger!
Something to pray
Think of someone known to you or whom you've heard about in the news that, as far as you can tell, appears to be outside the fold. Pray that they may listen to the good shepherd's voice. If you, yourself, feel outside the fold, sit and listen for a while.
Today's contributor is Melanie Smith, a minister of the United Reformed Church in Southend-on-Sea.