“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1 NIV)
I wonder if, when the ancient Hebrews or the early Christians read this line, they imagined themselves (as I reflexively imagine myself) as a solitary sheep under the care of the Lord their shepherd. Every biblical passage I can recall that deals with sheep and shepherds, whether as literal and historical reference or as metaphorical teaching, assumes that the shepherd has sheep in a flock.
So, to say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” is to confess belonging not only to the Shepherd himself, but to the Shepherd’s flock. Fellow sheep can be peculiar. Maybe smelly. Or bitey. Or rude. Or delightful. Who knows? I’m a city-boy after all. Not much time around sheep.
But I have spent time with the Lord’s flock. I am in the Lord’s flock. It is a glorious, beautiful flock. And also a bit of a mess. We need a shepherd–do we ever!
Sometimes, being in community with other sheep is a spiritual discipline. We’ve got fellow sheep we are exceedingly proud to be associated with and others that make us cringe. We hesitate to consider how often we’re in which group!
But being in community with others is what somehow reflects the Divine Trinitarian reality. God–Father, Son, Spirit–is an eternal community of love so holy and true as to be three and one at the same time. Amazing. When we grow in authentic relationship with others–when we live community–we are living out the divine image in which we were hand-crafted by God.
As it happens, there’s no other way to have God as our shepherd than to be a part of his flock.
Prayer: God, I praise you for the goodness and beauty I experience in your flock. And I grieve the pettiness and flaws of your flock. Mostly, I thank you for making me a part of your flock. Turns out I fit in pretty well. May we all grow under your firm, patient hand to love you and others well. Amen.