Posted by: Walk.Build.Proclaim | September 1, 2014

Labor Day — Shepherds

It’s Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer.  A day to take a break from “Laboring” a day to reflect on what it means to work and be thankful for jobs that we may have that keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. On this Labor Day I would like to reflect on people in our lives that we look to as Shepherds, being a shepherd is an important role that someone either plays in our lives or we play in the lives of others. I have been fortunate to have some wonderful role models of what it means to be a shepherd in my life. As we reflect on Shepherds in our lives and what that role looks like, I would like to take a few minutes to extend a welcome to some new followers from Volunteers of America, Wisconsin — Minnesota. I hope you enjoy the reflections that are shared here on Walk.Build.Proclaim, thank you for your example of what it means to be a shepherd. 

I am going to draw upon the image of shepherds from the prophet Ezekiel and a reading I heard read at weekday mass on Wednesday August 20th, 2014, the reading from Ezekiel was Chapter 34. verses 1-11.

In this passage, Ezekiel is told by God to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, i.e.….the religious leaders and other leaders. Ezekiel was told to call the “shepherds” to task, as they weren’t doing what God had expected of them. They weren’t pointing people to God; rather they were pillaging the flock, they were more concerned about themselves and how they’re going to get ahead then about the well-being of the flock they were supposed to be shepherding.

As I’ve thought about this passage and imagery from Ezekiel, I’ve been reflecting on different people that I have encountered in the role of a shepherd as well as my own experience of being a shepherd. It was clear to me that there are some people that have come and gone from my life because they weren’t very good examples of what it mean to be a shepherd. It’s those people that weren’t the best examples of shepherding that we learn the most from in terms of our own shepherding style. Finding someone who is a poor shepherd forces us to take a look at our own shepherding style and make course corrections. After all, we don’t want to follow in the footsteps of the poor example of shepherding, do we?

The same can be said for people that we encounter that are good examples of shepherding. We want to follow their lead and learn from them, such is the case of someone that I have had the pleasure of meeting only once in person, but have communicated with via email over the course of a couple of months. Her name is Katherine Johnsen, and she is a Program Supervisor for Volunteers of America, Minnesota and works out the Mora office. I got a wonderful email from Katherine about a week ago, telling me that she has a “wonderful group of caring staff” and she wanted to provide them with an opportunity to feed their faith life by receiving a weekly reflection that I had written for Volunteers of America. While I was sad to tell Kathy and her team that the Weekly Walk by Faith reflections were ending, I was happy to direct them here to Walk. Build. Proclaim. What stood out to me in this conversation was that Kathy, a supervisor took the next step in her role as a shepherd and offered her team an opportunity to feed and nurture their faith life. This is what a shepherd is supposed to do!

I’d invite you to spend a little bit of time with this reading from Ezekiel and ask yourself, what kind of shepherd am I? Do I need a course correction in my shepherding abilities or am I doing OK? Or spend some time looking at the different people who fulfill the roles of shepherd in your life: are there are any that you need to depart from because they aren’t setting a very good example of what it means to be a shepherd? Perhaps they are more focused on themselves than those they should be shepherding! If there are people in your life who are outstanding examples of what it means to be a shepherd, tell them.

Prophecy against the Shepherds of Israel

34 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to [a]those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord [b]God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been [c]feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds [d]feed the flock? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without [e]feeding the flock. 4 Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the [f]diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. 5 They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. 6 My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.”’”

7 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My [g]sheep [h]from them and make them cease from feeding [i]sheep. So the shepherds will not [j]feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.”’”

The Restoration of Israel

11 For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.


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Gary Neal Hansen

Theology. It's good for you.

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