Friday, April 19, 2013

Hearing Voices

The Lord be with you!

On Monday, my daughter in California asked that we pray at Operation Nightwatch Bible study (Tuesday evenings) and worship for the tragedy of Boston. She's a runner, planning to be in PDX next month for only a half marathon this time. I told her, "We pray at Operation Nightwatch every time there is good news and heartbreaking news." We pray.

Been thinking again about the sheep metaphor from John 10, as I do whenever the image comes up. Perhaps 15 years ago, a friend brought me a news item from the Capitol Press, an agriculture newspaper published in Salem. A local Jewish man, Dan Florea, had contracted with an area farmer to raise a flock of "Jacob sheep", direct genetic descendants of the sheep tended in Palestine 2K years ago. They were being raised as a source of the ram's horn, shofar, for the call to worship.

Eye opening, this sheep story. Little buggers are only half the carcass weight of modern breeds. Anything but dumb white cotton balls. Brown, white, black, tan, blotchy, spotty, speckled. All different. Rams have huge horns. Even mature ewes do. But mostly, Florea's description of their personality is what struck me. Strong-willed, stubborn, fiercely independent. Pretty well capable of taking care of themselves in the wilderness alone, thank you very much. They bear about as much resemblance to modern day sheep--and our understanding of them--as wolves and coyotes do to lapdogs.
Jacob sheep would never submit to being herded by a sheepdog. In fact, the only way they could ever be turned into a flock or community of any kind was by learning as young lambs to identify the voice calls, the songs, of their shepherd who led them out in the AM to pasture. That's why sheep of several flocks could all be gathered into a single shelter overnight and separate themselves out as their shepherds called and sang to them in the morning. And of course the shepherd knew his own. No two looked alike!

Jacob sheep. Not at all unlike congregations. Not at all unlike the human community that finds itself in the wilderness of chaos, war and strife. Bombings. Shootings. Bickering over everything and going nowhere... 
What voices do the perpetrators hear? What voice can they no longer hear? What voice do they need to hear? What voice do our leaders and caregivers hear? Who are our shepherds?

Blessings in being that voice!

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