Luke 15:6-7 – 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Even raised the modern way, sheep seem to be an awfully messy, labour-intensive bother, and I can't imagine why anyone would choose to raise them as an occupation. Indeed, shepherds themselves are at a loss to explain their calling:
- The Shepherd's Lament
Now I lay me down to sleep,
- Exhausted by those dog-gone sheep;
My only wish is that I might
- Cause them not to lamb at night.
I wouldn't mind the occasional ewe,
- But lately it's more than just a few:
Back into bed, then up again,
- At two o'clock and four A.M. …
They grunt and groan with noses high,
- And in between, a mournful sigh,
We stand there watching nature work,
- Hoping there won't be a quirk:
A leg turned back, or even worse,
- A lamb that's coming in reverse.
But once they've lambed we're glad to see
- That their efforts didn't end in tragedy.
There's no emotion so sublime
- As a ewe and lamb that's doing fine.
I'm often asked why I raise sheep,
- With all the work and loss of sleep;
The gratification gained at three A.M.,
- From the birth of another baby lamb –
How can you explain, or even show?
- 'Cause only a shepherd will ever know!
- Darrell L. Salisbury, D.V.M.
April 1, 1988
(from: Raising Sheep the Modern Way by Paula Simmons, Storey Communications, Inc., Pownal VT 05261 1989)
So that's the call of the shepherd, is it? In spite of the grunts and groans and mournful sighs, the sleepless nights, the hours of dedicated work interrupted by moments of panic, a sometimes dirty, dim-witted, and diseased-ridden flock, the shepherd succumbs to the overpowering "emotion so sublime" that accompanies the birth of an new lamb. How like the joy we experience when a person is re-born into the Kingdom of God!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the glimpse of heaven's rejoicing that you share as a lost or wounded member of your flock is restored. Help me to learn to be more like you so that I can see through your eyes, listen with your heart, speak with your voice, soothe with your hands, and comfort with your presence when you call me to minister to others. Shepherd me beyond any temporal "bother", to the peace of your eternal joy. Amen.