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‘We like sheep…’

By The Reverend Canon Cate Edmonds

Spring time is one of my favourite times of the year and this year I have to say is no exception. Apart from the lockdown it has been good to see nature bursting forth and really glowing in the spring sunshine. Whether we can only observe it from our windows, or experience it in our gardens or venture out, during our exercise time, further into the country or in parks we can’t have failed to see new life all around.  I am fortunate that I have dogs to exercise, sheepdogs and it is to sheep that my thoughts have travelled; in fact it is to lambs. In the field, well fenced off, beside the footpath which I sometimes walk is a small flock of sheep, I’m glad to say my sheepdogs take no notice of them at all. Long before I get to that part of the footpath I can hear the bleating of the lambs particularly if the ewes have wondered away from them or the lambs have wandered off; the bleatings cease as lamb and ewe are reunited. There is the rather indelicate barge of the ewe so the lamb can suckle once more. I am always amused at the patience of the ewes and the almost resigned expression on their faces as if to say, “well this is all part of the job”.

Sheep are frequently used as an analogy in the Bible. The line in the title of this piece comes from Isaiah 53:6 deliberately truncated. Christ many times referred to sheep to illustrate a point or concept. One of the particular passages that we read at this time of year is found in John 21. Christ after cooking his disciples’ breakfast on the beach challenges Simon Peter to feed and to tend his sheep. A challenge indeed  from the great Shepherd himself!

I was once told by a farmer friend, after returning one of his escaping sheep, that sheep have only two purposes in life, to escape and to die. When I look at the delightful lambs gambolling in the fields it is hard to think that is all they live for. However, Christ is referring to those Simon Peter is to minster to which resonates with those words from Isaiah 53:6, “we all like sheep have gone  astray …” We are those sheep, the sheep through the ages.

Well if my farmer friend was right and sheep only live to escape and die how do we measure up to that? We know of course that our earthly lives are not eternal but we have faith that through Christ our heavenly life is eternal,  we have Christ’s promise , John  3: 16 “ for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life”. What about the desire to escape? At the moment many of us no doubt are desperate to escape from the lockdown, from the confinement and interruption to our usual lives. Are we sometimes trying to escape from God, do we try to find a way out of his presence, to push our way through the metaphorical fence or hedge? What is wonderful is that Christ came as the good shepherd to bring us back into the fold, to answer our bleatings and to give us security and peace.

The ewes in the field take their lambs back and feed them even when they stray far away. It makes me smile at the sight, but it’s also my comfort that even though we may wander far off from God, by word or deed, we are welcomed back into the warmth of His love. We will escape eventually from the lockdown but we will never escape from God’s love. Take comfort in the knowledge that soon we can escape and celebrate together and praise God for all His love.