Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shepherd Behavior: A Model for Today's Shepherds

When one engages in the discipline of daily Bible study, there are times when the familiarity of the verses seems to be more of a hindrance than a help. The mind drifts off as the eyes scroll down the page, and before you know it you are at the end of a chapter, and you realize that you took nothing away from the page or screen. At other times, something either jumps out or steps in and brings you back into focus giving you pause to reflect. A structured way to help develop this focus is lectio divina, but most of us probably will never make the effort to do anything more than letting our eyes rest from time to time as we read the Bible, and we will more than likely stop and think only about those verses we are least familiar with or those parts with which we struggle the most.

What could be more familiar than the following passage from Luke Chapter 2,
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, 
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.   Luke 2:8-20 NKJV

I found myself scanning through this section of Luke on Epiphany. The Christmas stories were all fresh in my mind from hearing them in church, so I found myself drawn to the story of the shepherds and how Luke might be giving us a pattern upon which shepherds of the Church might model their behavior.

  • 1) "... and they were greatly afraid." Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, Psalm 111:10). 
  • 2) Listen to what angels say when they speak to you.
  • 3) Verify, go ahead and prove for yourself that which the Lord has revealed. Find Him where the Gospel stars point. 
  • 4) Make this revelation widely known.
  • 5) Return to the Lord and praise him for all the things you have heard and seen. 

It all seems rather simple doesn't it? Note that there is nothing in there about the shepherds creating a new revelation more in keeping with the current worldview, and then trying to place that in the manger all the while pointing to it and saying,

"Look at what we have found! Let us write a book, get it into the Episcopal church Publishing Catalog, and maybe get asked to speak at a Kanuga conference, or make a video for the Discovery Channel." 

Nope, none of that. Maybe I should add,

  • 6) Expect no financial reward from the owner of the sheep. 

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