20 July 2015

Shepherding and sheep

The words "my sheep listen to my voice" (John 10:27) have been tossed around our house lately. The sheep, though, refers to Jerry, the cat. Matthijs has been finding it a challenge to find him and, if necessary, herd him inside the house when we leave. I, however, have managed to have the cat sitting on my lap 5 minutes after coming home, even though Matthijs had been searching for him for awhile as he was trying to leave the house.

It is not surprising that yesterday's Scriptures that focused on shepherding stood out to me:
Jeremiah 23:1-4: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord."
Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd....  
Mark 6:34: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."
We have been striving at Campus Edge to become clearer about our mission, including and especially who we are trying to reach. Who are our sheep? Who are the sheep without a shepherd? What are the lost sheep that we should leave the other 99 for? And am I, like the priest who gave the sermon, willing to look hard at how and where I have been failing in task of shepherding, in order to prevent the sheep from being scattered?

I do not know the immediate answers to those questions, as they are hard ones. I know that I am saddened by the degree in which I have reached out and ministered to faculty this past year, as well as those who are not Christians. I have found it hard even to find ways to reach out to those who do not seek us out. I do not know how to balance my desire to shepherd and love those who have been given to me - the ones who have sought out Campus Edge - with a growing conviction that the ministry of Campus Edge needs to focus at least as much on those struggling and getting lost, as there are so many ways to get lost, both as a Christian within the academy and as an academic within the church.

I am thankful to be reminded of the challenges of taking on the role of shepherding. It gives space for all of my feelings - frustrations, anger, sadness, joy, overwhelmedness, and more -  related to my role of shepherding and those being lost. And it makes it very obvious how desperately I need the help, prayers, and encouragement of those around me, as well as being challenged to be faithful to my task as shepherd and to completely rely on the Lord as my shepherd.

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