Sheep Tales

This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The gospel text was John 10:1-10

Once upon a time there was a pen full of sheep.

And the sheep heard a voice. “Come here, sheep. Here, sheepy sheepy sheepy.”

The voice was coming from the far end of the pen, far away from the gate. Some of the sheep wandered over there, curious about this voice. They saw a man standing there, just outside the fence, with a big machine, a machine full of levers and knobs, making whirring and beeping noises. The man said, “Welcome, welcome sheep! I’m here to help you! It’s time to get free! It’s time to leave your pen and come out into the real world. You want real life, don’t you? I’m here to save you!”

The sheep nodded their heads. This sounded good to them. They did want to see the big world. They did want real life. They did want to be saved.

The man said, “Good! Good!” He twisted a knob and pressed a button on the machine, and a platform lifted up off of it, pivoted over the fence, and came to rest right in front of the sheep. The sheep backed up, baa-ing nervously. The man said, “All you need to do is get on this platform, and it will lift you over the fence! And you’ll be free!”

Some of the sheep looked at the platform, and continued to back away, frightened. The man said, “That’s right! Some of you can’t make it! Only the bravest!”

Some of the sheep tried to climb on, but the platform was tricky. Some couldn’t quite get on. The man said, “That’s right! Some of you can’t make it! Only the strongest!”

And some of them tried to climb on to the platform from the side, instead of the front. The man yelled angrily at them, “No! You’re not doing it right! Some of you can’t make it! Only the most loyal to me!”

Finally, a few of them, the strongest, the bravest, the most loyal, were on the platform. The man pressed another button, and those few were lifted over the fence. They were free. But the others were left behind. The man said to them, “Sorry. It’s not for you.” This man was a thief and a bandit.

winter-1142029_1920

Once upon a time there was a pen full of sheep.

And the sheep heard a voice. “Come here, sheep. Here, sheepy sheepy sheepy.”

The voice was coming from the far end of the pen, far away from the gate. Some of the sheep wandered over there, curious about this voice. They saw a man standing there, inside the pen, next to a huge curtain that said, “EXIT.” They couldn’t see over or around the curtain, it was so large. The man said, “Welcome, welcome, sheep! I’m here to help you! It’s time to get free! It’s time to leave your pen and come out into the real world. I’m here to save you!”

The sheep nodded their heads. This sounded good to them. They did want to be saved.

The man said, “Good! Good! The exit from the pen is right through here. All you need to do is pay a modest fee, and I’ll let you right through here. Well, except it’s a bit dark through there, so you’ll need a flashlight. Luckily, I have them for sale as well! And well, you’ll want a map. And of course this book with my patented seven-step program. In fact, if you act now, you can have all of them for just $19.99 plus tax. Surely life is worth that to you, isn’t it?”

And some of them paid the man. They bought the flashlight, the map, the seven-step program, and went behind the curtain. But it didn’t lead anywhere. They were still in the pen after all. And the man was gone. This man was a thief and a bandit.

animals-1842106_1920

Once upon a time there was a pen full of sheep.

And the sheep heard a voice. “Come here, sheep. Here, sheepy sheepy sheepy.”

The voice was coming from the far end of the pen, far away from the gate. Some of the sheep wandered over there, curious about this voice. They were surprised to see that it was actually another sheep, wearing a hard hat, standing next to a pile of shovels. The sheep said, “Welcome, welcome, sheep! It’s time for us to help ourselves! It’s time to get free! It’s time for us to leave this pen and go out into the real world. I’m here to save you!”

The other sheep nodded their heads. This sounded good to them. They did want to be saved.

The sheep with the hard hat said, “Good. Now all we need to do is use these shovels to dig enough dirt to make a mound here, a hill. And then we can climb that hill and go right over the fence!”

So they started. They began to dig, and dig, and dig. Before long, all the grass in the pen was dug up. But the mound wasn’t big enough. So they made bigger shovels. And they invented machines to dig better and deeper. And before long, the whole pen was a smoking pile of rubble. Some of the sheep died from the smoke and from accidents with the machines. But the mound was built. The surviving sheep started to climb it, and the one with the hard hat was first. “Follow me!” he said, and leaped off the mound out of the pen. As he landed gracefully, his disguise fell off, and they saw that he was actually a wolf. The other sheep looked at each other. Sheep can’t jump like that. They’d never make it. The wolf ran, turning back to shout, “Great job, suckers! Enjoy living in that destroyed world of yours!” He was a thief and a bandit.

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Once upon a time, there was a pen full of sheep.

And the sheep heard a voice. “Hello, my sheep. Come to me!” They knew this voice. This was the voice of their shepherd. They knew where he would be – right at the gate. They came to him, and he led them out through the open gate. They followed him to rich, green pasture. Then he called them back. He led them back through the gate. They followed him to safety.

The sheep heard in the distance other voices, the voices of strangers, strangers shouting, “Here, sheepy, sheepy, sheepy.” They wondered if perhaps there were sheep who followed those voices, who were led astray by the strangers. But they knew that they wanted nothing to do with them. There was nothing those strangers could offer, because this was life. Life with the shepherd. This was the life they were born to, the life they were called to. There was no need to escape the pen. The gate wasn’t the doorway to some paradise waiting for them. That’s not what life with the shepherd was about. Life with the shepherd was about the here and now, and the gate led them where they needed to go, here and now. Sometimes it led them out, to pasture. Sometimes it led them in, to safety. With the shepherd, they had everything they needed. With the shepherd, they had protection and nourishment and guidance and direction. With the shepherd, they were all together, not just the strongest or best or the ones who followed the rules. All of them. With the shepherd, they didn’t need to follow any secret program. They just needed to trust and follow him. With the shepherd they had life, here and now, and they had it abundantly.

Amen.

Author: michael j scholtes

I am a time-worn preacher with no intent of malice.

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