Saturday, 14 March 2009

Shepherds/ pastors.... really thinking about this topic... from the 23rd Psalm!

March 6, 2009

And this morning, when I woke, I was going to jump up to get my Bible and stuff - but You led me to pray first for Your guidance (and - oh Lord, please - Your Spirit - full and overflowing! I ask right now! Please cleanse, forgive and fill and keep on filling me!)… anyway, then I started to talk to You about “church,” asking You, “Oh dear God, please show me - us - what “expression” of church You want us involved in… even if it means going back to “our [traditional] church!”

And almost instantly, “out of nowhere,” the hymn, “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want” (from the 23rd Psalm) just came into my mind - and I stopped and listened to the words all the way through… and suddenly it occurred to me - NO! YOU showed me - that while of course the Psalm is about You, the Shepherd (and Your relationship to me/us - which of course I fail to respond to as I should… because I’m afraid that up to now I’ve pretty much thought of it as a Psalm about You, and while I’ve loved it, and loved that You care for me and guide me and all in those wonderful ways, I’m afraid I’ve never really realized that it also is calling for a response from me (more that “just” praise of/to You… which clearly I also do not do enough - hardly at all, actually, these days!).

But even more than that - and what YOU really showed me so clearly - is that it is a picture of how the church should be; yes, in our relationship to You - but also in our relationships to “one another” (oh my goodness, the “one another” theme has really been coming through in the Edgenet articles!).

Anyway, first of all, a “pastor” is really a “shepherd!” And this psalm defines what that means! And furthermore, all of us in the church, as we “make disciples” and as we are in “one another” relationship, also become “shepherds” to each other in many ways, on many levels - and it should be day-in, day-out of course, just as a shepherd cares for his flock of sheep! Wow!

Look carefully at this “shepherd’s psalm!” If current “churches” - current pastors in current churches (of all stripes/ expressions) decided to make this their job description - imagine how the “expression” and “flavor” would change - and if they all followed this same template, the template that is really the description of our “lead shepherd” of the church, You, Jesus Christ (and responded to You, the Head Shepherd, in the ways it implies, as sheep and as under-shepherds)…

Then there WOULD BE UNITY in the church universal… especially if all us sheep also:

1. responded to both You, the chief shepherd, and those whom Your Spirit has gifted as pastors/under-shepherds, as this description implicitly calls for, and

2. we also took this as our personal job description in the “one-another” shepherding which is clearly central to the New Testament church mandate and call! Wow!

We’d just stop worrying about all the surrounding “details” and “scaffolding” and “distinctives” and “systems” and such… and those details that do not fit would fall away, and those that truly “have their place” would fall into place naturally and would no longer fight for dominance or be a “problem” but simply do their share when and where they have value to the core - to Your purpose and plan and love for Your bride, Your church! Thank You!

So… please show me as I go through this Psalm, what You want me to see!

1. The LORD is my shepherd.

You love me. You are my guide, protector, feeder, etc. You are the center. The under-shepherds, then, are a reflection of You. You are their pattern. All their actions (if they are really guided by Your Spirit of course) are You acting through them. So they themselves are NOT in a position of power: always You are doing Your work, through them. So their shepherding is a position of humility and servanthood! Our shepherding (as all of us have shepherding opportunities along the way) is a position of humility and servanthood! Always, always, we point to, look to YOU. “Hide the pastor behind the old rugged cross” KB used to pray. Our eyes are lifted to You, the author and finisher of our faith, the Great Shepherd! The “pastor’s” hands outstretched in love are Your hands outstretched - nail marks and all! And that applies to all of us, too, in the context of “one another!"

How do I/we respond to You, the Great Shepherd? The words are easy - but we are called to walk in them - love, trust, obedience, respect (awe, fear, reverence!), believing, hope, praise, glory, joy… with all our heart and soul and strength (and mind!) to YOU… and Your love, too, through us, to our neighbor (including our human “pastors” - those whom You gift with “shepherding” … and of course there will also be times, if we are truly following the “one another” mandate, for all of us to “shepherd”)…

And with Your love, all those things that go with it, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22-23) : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control - to them, as we love ourselves - as Your love sets the example, as You love them through us! And as You Yourself provide the means - Your Spirit - to give us the ability to respond in Godliness, because of course it isn’t in us “naturally”….

Ho! If we responded to our pastors/shepherds (both those You have especially gifted in this way, and all those in the body who at some time or other also shepherd us!), what joy it would bring them. Surely that’s what Paul must have had in mind when he urged respect and honor (yes, even double honor!) to those God has given to shepherd us… and what he was also thinking of when he was advising Timothy and Titus of their obligations to those they were shepherding also. It really is “one another” and it always comes back to us on our knees before You, our Great Shepherd!

So honor goes to our earthly shepherds, but even that honor is only a reflection, a practical in-action-working-out of the “all honor and all glory” that belongs to YOU alone! (Which is why human shepherds must never for a moment lose sight of the fact that their shepherding role is always one of humility and servanthood… )(how difficult for us… possible only with constant awareness and obedience and submission to and worship of our Great Shepherd).

Oh my goodness! This is way bigger than I imagined! Because You are huger - infinitely! - whatever that means! - than anything I or any human being can imagine! Amazing God! Amazing grace! Amazing love! Amazing Shepherd!

(Oh Lord, teach me to “shepherd” others as You shepherd me… to be a little child learning about life by watching her parents and wanting to be “just like” them… and trusting them, believing in them implicitly… The thing is, we CAN EXPECT perfect shepherding from YOU (alone!), and that’s where our eyes and hearts must be trained - You give us human under-shepherds through whom You “work out” some aspects of Your Shepherding - but they are only vessels. You are The Shepherd. Our trust in in YOU.

1b. I shall (do) not want.

A shepherd fulfills the needs of others. Provides. SERVES. Well, that’s New Testament church biblical, for sure! And our response? Gratitude… love… serving in return… honor (Oh yes, aren’t those some of the “one anothers?” ) (Ummm… what goes around comes around, eh?…)

2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters (waters of rest!)

This is interesting. I know from experience that You give me rest, You lift my heavy burdens (and in return I accept Your yoke which is easy and Your burden which is light… hmmm… how does that work out in my relationships to my human shepherds???). How does a human shepherd give his “flock” rest? What are the “green pastures” to which he (or she!) leads the sheep? What is the “practical working out” by the under-shepherd of the spiritual (and yes, sometimes very physical/ emotional/ etc) rest that You, the Great Shepherd, give us? Lord? This is something I really have not considered before! Counsel, perhaps? Praying with the sheep and leading them to You, The Rest? Maybe even serving in practical ways (shoveling of walk of a senior? Oh my!). And then how do the sheep respond? Honor? Maybe even providing rest for the shepherd?!? “One another!”

3. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths (traces) of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Maybe this is what we’re used to thinking of when we talk about human pastors/shepherds. The teaching of the Word, the edifying of the saints, encouragement, guidance. But - ALWAYS “for His name’s sake” … always for YOUR glory, never for the under-shepherd’s glory! And our response? How do we respond to You, the Great Shepherd? Praise, honor, glory, obedience… Obviously the under-shepherd needs to be careful to “pass on” these responses to You… but don’t we all need to do that whenever these responses come our way? (Oh my, this is a “heavy” aspect… hmmm…)

………. So hubby came home and I made him breakfast, tidied up… Oh! Last night we watched together a 2 hour documentary on CBC about the “next big one” (Cascadia fault and consequent horrendous earthquake and tidal waves…) and hubby laughingly said, “So are you sure you want to move to Vancouver Island?” and there was a lot of video and discussion about Uclulet-Tofino… and we couldn’t help thinking of our special friends there! Who we know aren’t worrying at all because they know God is in charge and whatever happens is okay! (Ha! you guys know who your are! :-) )

Well, I’ll have to look more into the rest of the 23rd Psalm and the whole shepherd/pastor thing… later!

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