Talk about the best ladies plans - today went exactly as it wasn't planned and before I knew it everything was everywhere and it was ranks as one of the hardest days I have doing this ministry thing!
As priest and pastor we are called to watch over the sheep and to keep them safe, but the wickedness of some people and the potential for sheep to stray from the greenest grass and head for the rocky places presents a challenge for us. Today I found myself leaving the ninety-nine sheep whilst I headed off to rescue that one which had become caught up in the brambles. It was like going out on a cold, wet, day with high winds and poor terrain to unravel the fleece from the thicket and set the poor thing free - with the fear that it would return to the promise of whatever enticed it again. But we can only bring them back into the fold and trust that they will remain safe, resisting the call to wander off and the enticing promise of things that look better than they really are.
Meanwhile around me I had mental illness, cloaked by other concerns, prowling and seeking ways to snatch other sheep, more illness, the problems that getting older brings and so much more it makes your head hurt to think of them. There were those who make demands and those who hide in the shadows and hide their, often more demanding and challenging, situations - the latter recognised but left on the plain to be dealt with on another day.
Alongside everything else today there were glimpses of the 'abused turned abuser' sheep - today these were not one of my flock and yet I can leave no sheep to their own folly, for their demise leaves them rotting, and poisoning, the same stream that sustains others! I struggle with sin in myself and others and yet it is the potential for any of us to become predator, or worse still a 'Judas Sheep', and become an agent of death (spiritual gather than physical - but it's still death). The old man in us sometimes simply refuses to be put to death as we cling to the world rather than look to the Christ for what we need.
But all we can do is our best and trust that rescued, our sheep will learn, and if they don't?
Well we keep on tryIng to protect them!
Lord, I pray for the sheep:
That the predators would be kept from the door and the sheep would remain in the fold,
That the shepherds would be faithful and attentive, applying balm to the wounded and rescuing the lost,
That the sheep would be safe from without, and within, and would hear the head Shepherd's voice and follow Him,
That we would have the wisdom to follow what is true and to live as you would have us live, using the brains we have been given, the hearts we have had restored, and the Christ who leads us on.
For the skills and abilities I have used today I can but praise you. We walk this path and we become who we are by experience, your indwelling Spirit and by desire. Grant all of us the desire to look, smell and be like You I pray.
And tomorrow? Bless those whom I will engage with; those with whom I will feast on in the Eucharistic triumph, those with whom I will fellowship, and those I will be called to bring back yet again. Keep me safe, and well, and fill me with Your healing and love that I might be a faithful shepherd.