A minister, arriving at a new pastorate, was invited to join a civic club. Introducing him, the speaker facetiously said that they were electing him “chief hog caller” for the club. The minister said, “Gentlemen, I appreciate the great honour that you have conferred on me. When I came to this community, I expected to shepherd the sheep–but, of course, you know your crowd better than I do.”
Jesus is the great shepherd of the flock. I like that because shepherds take care of sheep. The shepherd:
o Leads the sheep,
o Provides food for them,
o Finds them safe lodging,
o Searches for them when they are lost,
o Tends their wounds when they are hurt,
o And protects them from wild animals.
People didn’t think very highly of shepherds in Jesus’ day. Shepherds sometimes allowed their sheep to graze on other people’s land. Shepherds were here today and gone tomorrow, moving from pasture to pasture. Sometimes they left town without paying their bills. Sometimes, people found prized possessions missing after a shepherd had moved on. Shepherds lived lonely, isolated lives. They seldom developed much in the way of social graces. Shepherds were sometimes not allowed to appear as witnesses in court because people didn’t trust them.
But Jesus called himself “the good shepherd” (John 10:11). He was glad to identify with shepherds despite the shepherd’s humble status–or, perhaps, because of their humble status. Jesus had plenty of pride, but none of it was false. He could identify with shepherds because shepherds nurtured and protected their sheep. That is what Jesus came to do.
Jesus said that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out” (v. 3). Day in and day out, Jesus calls us. A shepherd calls sheep that have wandered away so that they might return to his protection. Fanny Crosby captured the image well in her old gospel song:
Jesus is tenderly calling you home–
Calling today, calling today…
Jesus is pleading, O hear now his voice–
Hear him today, hear him today.
When Jesus calls us, he calls us by name. Our names are important because they identify us personally. A church bulletin board read, “Everybody welcome!” That sounds friendly, but the Good Shepherd doesn’t say, “Everybody welcome!” The Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” Jesus says, “Sam, follow me! Jack, follow me! Sharon, follow me! Sue, follow me! Carol, follow me!” He knows us personally and calls us by name.
Jesus not only calls us by name but also calls us to live extraordinary lives. Some years ago, a large oil company needed a public relations officer in the Far East. They needed someone familiar with the language and customs; they needed someone who knew the local people. In those days, not many Americans knew the Orient, but the company located an American missionary who seemed perfect. They offered him the job and named a salary several times his missionary pay. He turned them down. They increased the offer, but still, he declined. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Isn’t the salary big enough?” The missionary thought for a moment and then responded, “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t!”
When Christ calls us, he calls us to more than a large salary. He calls us to large lives. Today, many seminarians are people in their 30s or 40s or even older. Many of them determined that their lives had been too small, so they answered Christ’s call to a larger life. Some have made great sacrifices to do so.
Recently, I heard about a man who had been ordained. Christ had called him to ministry, and he had quit his job to attend seminary. The man had been a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, earning a six-figure salary. Six figures is a lot of money–somewhere between a hundred thousand dollars and a million dollars. Not many ministers make six figures–and this man had the potential to earn millions as a Wall Street lawyer. But, at some point, he said, “Can I spend the rest of my life worrying about the wording of debentures?” After much soul-searching, he quit his job and enrolled in seminary. Christ had called him from a generous salary to a great life.
Christ doesn’t call all of us to study for the ministry but calls all of us to the ministry of one sort or another. It is not important whether he calls us to things great or small because he enlarges everything he touches. God called a widow to put her last penny in the collection plate. Jesus pointed her out to his disciples and said that people would remember her for the rest of the time. Christ called a boy to give five loaves and two fishes. When the boy obeyed, Jesus used the child’s lunch to feed five thousand people.
each of us are called to some sort of service. David McKenna, in his book, Love Your Work, tells of a tombstone in a village graveyard. The epitaph read:
Thomas Cobb mended shoes in this village for forty years to the glory of God!
Imagine that! If you needed a pair of shoes mended–or a car repaired–or a house built–or your plumbing unstopped–wouldn’t you like to meet a cobbler–or a mechanic–or a carpenter–or a plumber–whom Christ had called to practice their trade to the glory of God! I have known people like that. It’s a joy to work with them. Just think of the many acts of Christian service to which Christ calls people every week. People prepare and serve communion, cook dinners for homeless people, sing in the choir, plant flowers, pay bills, pull weeds, clean toilets, attend meetings, type minutes of meetings, and perform a host of other duties for the glory of God. Each of these small duties might seem inconsequential by itself but, woven together, they become a chorus of praise. Jakob Boehme put it this way. He said:
We are all strings in the concert of God’s joy.
Jesus says that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” He calls us, each of us, to use who we are and what we have to bring glory to his name. He calls us to obey him–to go where he calls–to follow him faithfully–even foolishly.
What has God called you to do?
o Has he called you to serve as a deacon or an elder?
o Has he called you to serve on the church board?
o Has he called you to cook for a church dinner or for the homeless?
o Has he called you to keep the financial records or to fold the bulletins?
o Has he called you to teach a Sunday school class or to sponsor a youth group, or Has he called you into a secular career?
God calls each of us to some sort of Christian service. But first, he calls us to receive his transforming love into our lives and to love him in return. First, he calls us to let Him be Lord of our lives.
Today, Christ is calling you! He is calling you by name!
He is calling you to love him and to serve him.
Listen carefully! Listen prayerfully!
And answer his call today.
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Paula Rose Parish
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