The Rev’d Robert Warren
John 10: 11-18
One of the early Christian symbols one can find painted on, or scratched into, the walls of early basilicas or Christian burial sites is that of a man with a sheep draped over his shoulders. In the world of early Christianity the image of the Good Shepherd is most common in the years prior to the Edict of Milan, before the faithful could openly identify as Christians and practice their faith publicly. It was a time of worry when the sword of local or Empire-wide persecution might drop at any time. Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 10, where he describes himself as the Good Shepherd who will never abandon his sheep, had a particular poignancy during these years.
Worry is a relative thing. A few of us should worry more. Most of us worry far too much. We worry about things which are theoretically possible but will never happen. We worry about things which worry itself will not change.
We worry about things which can be fixed but worrying does not, in and of itself, provide us with the means or motivation to make those changes. Anxiety becomes a free-floating state of mind – a way of life rather than a tool to keep us safe. Useless and wasteful, it shortens our lives and robs the world of its colour.
But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day
Do you believe that we have a Saviour, an Advocate and a Shepherd? We say the words and we sing the hymns (the above is from 2 Timothy 1:12). In the best of all possible worlds those words would sink down into our souls and condition our response to both real and imaginary threats. What is in the way? Perhaps we were taught to fear by others and are carrying the baton in our generation which our parents passed to us. Perhaps we were improperly shepherded or nurtured by grownups when we were small and learned to fear anything in the world which was beyond our immediate control. Discovering whose voice it is which we hear on the tape-loop in our heads when we fret is something which might well repay the effort.
Jesus does not tell us that the world will always be a safe place. He does tell us however that he knows us. And that we can know him. This is somehow enough. The strength of that loving bond will be sufficient to sustain us in good times and in bad. The gift of God to the world was, is and remains the Person of Christ in whom there is nurture, protection and ultimate safety. Be persuaded of that love. Invest – actively and intentionally – in that relationship.