BY AMY WALTON |
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…”
The beginning words of the familiar 23rd Psalm are etched in my heart. They were proclaimed over me by now Bishop Graham Rights when I was confirmed in the Moravian Church at age 12. Bishop Rights was our pastor, our youth group leader, our junior choir director, and in a way… our shepherd.
In fact, our young voices sang many songs that included the word “shepherd” in the lyrics or title, such as “Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us.” Many of our Sunday School classes featured framed prints depicting Jesus holding a shepherd’s crook in one hand and a sheep in the other arm. Some of my friends played shepherds in our annual Christmas play, clad in bathrobes with towels as head dresses.
I guess you could say I was immersed in a “shepherd rich” environment!
When we think of the word shepherd, we likely picture a man wearing a long robe with his head covered and a staff in his hand. According to Merriam-Webster, a shepherd is a person who tends sheep. The word can also be a verb that conveys leading, guiding, and tending.
Many people consider their pastors as shepherds of their congregations—their “flocks.” They lead their people through their sermons, pastoral care, and in Bible studies, among other things. In my own Bible study group, we have a shepherd, someone who prays for us and sends encouraging weekly emails and reminders about our study. She lovingly cares for our little flock of women. In the work arena, I was recently asked to “shepherd” a project to get it moving. That was the verb that was used.
Truth be told, though, we are all sheep herders… or should be.
The emblem of our Moravian Church is the Agnus Dei, or “Lamb of God,” carrying the flag of victory and surrounded by the Latin inscription, “Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur.” Those words translate into a familiar phrase among Moravians- Our Lamb has conquered; let us follow Him. Jesus is that sacrificial Lamb who took on our sins, died, and was buried; but we know the end of that story: He conquered death, and He will return one day to overcome—yes, to conquer— this sinful world.
Although Jesus is the Lamb Who has conquered death and darkness, He’s also the Good Shepherd, the One who guides us and who laid down His life for us. We read about our Good Shepherd in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
Shepherding is an ancient occupation, dating back approximately 5,000 years, that was largely nomadic and comprised of single men. As time went on, the profession went through many changes. With the destruction of common lands in Europe, sheep herders became estate employees; and in certain other cultures today, families share the duties of caring for the sheep.
We have shepherds in our midst today in the persons of pastors, elders, Sunday School teachers, and Bible study leaders. Many people have Christian mentors to help guide them on their paths. Who has or is shepherding you? How has that impacted your life?
Remember that YOU can be a shepherd, too; and there may be someone in your life right now who considers you as such, even if you don’t realize it. Perhaps you teach Sunday School where you are introducing children to the love of Jesus. Maybe you facilitate a Bible study group or mentor a candidate for confirmation. You may just be a shining light of God’s love to your friends and neighbors, helping them think about their own relationship with Him. It’s never too late to become a shepherd, so consider where you may be called to lead people to God in your church, your circles of influence, and most of all, your family.
May we always be mindful that Jesus is our Shepherd, and may we strive each day to follow His example as we tend to those in our midst.
About the author
Amy Walton is a certified life coach, certified Christian life coach, speaker, and writer who has lived in coastal Virginia for nearly 30 years. A native of Mayodan, North Carolina, she was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Mayodan Moravian Church, where she remains an Associate Member. Connect with her at www.HolyGrounding.com or [email protected].
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