The other week, I heard a great sermon on John 10:7-18. Most of the time people use this scripture to talk about Jesus the Good Shepherd. But there is an interesting twist to the story that often gets neglected.
First, Jesus calls us sheep. And to let you know, sheep are stupid. Sheep have been known to stand and eat all the grass in one spot, then proceed to eat the dirt once the grass is gone. They have also been known to walk off cliffs, get stuck in briar patches and basically do stupid dangerous stuff…And that is the animal Jesus compares us to (which I know for me is fitting).
Anyway, Jesus as the good shepherd means that he will tend to our wounds, heal our cuts and bruises and keep us from the edge of cliffs. But it also means he will allow us to get near the edge, to find the briars, and to eat dirt occasionally.
A quick agricultural lesson is that sheep were kept in pens. In safe, restraining pens, that kept all the sheep out of the dangers and perils of the pasture. Each day the shepherd would come to the only door in the pen and call the sheep to the gate, and lead them out into the pasture. Now the pasture was not only full of water and delicious grass, but also wolves, briars and those dang cliffs.
I think that is a great way to look at the church and our responsibilities there. I think we often believe that the church should be this safe, constant place like the pen. But if that is true than we cannot enjoy the freedom and excitement the pasture provides. Instead we should view the church, and our duties in the church, as a trip into the pasture. One that will provide us with green grass and water, but also one that contains wolves and briars. If we listen to the Shepherd, Jesus, he is at the gate of the pen calling us to a pasture full of peril and danger, but the exciting news is that he will remain there with us. We may get a few scrapes and bruises, but he will protect us from the ultimate danger.
Mark, my friend preaching on this lesson, closed the sermon with this point. I think this is a great way we should view our role as youth ministries, we are here not to heal, but to point to the Healer: “I do not know what frustrations you brought to the service today. And I cannot give you the balm and elixir to heal your cuts and bruises [like a shepherd does]. But I can recall for you the promise the good shepherd makes. And suggest that you stop, listen and hear for yourself the promise of full life and healing.”

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