The good shep­herd

The Covington News - - RELIGION - JAN MCCOY COLUM­NIST Rev. Jan McCoy is the As­so­ciate Pas­tor of Cov­ing­ton First United Methodist Church in down­town Cov­ing­ton. She may be reached at jan.mccoy@ngumc.net or at cov­ing­ton­first.org.

Je­sus said: I tell you for cer­tain that I am the gate for the sheep. Ev­ery­one who came be­fore me was a thief or a rob­ber, and the sheep did not lis­ten to any of them. I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved. Through me they will come and go and find pas­ture. A thief comes only to rob, kill, and de­stroy. I came so that ev­ery­one would have life, and have it in its fullest. I am the good shep­herd, and the good shep­herd gives up his life for his sheep

— John 10:7-11 (Con­tem­po­rary English Ver­sion)

Near the lit­tle town of Beth­le­hem lie the shep­herds’ fields. Just across the way from Boaz’s field where Ruth gleaned for food and a hus­band, shep­herds still use this area for keep­ing their sheep. In the dis­tance, be­douin shep­herds watch over their flocks by day and by night, mov­ing them from field to field to graze in con­trolled ar­eas. From a dis­tance, we can see the field ar­eas di­vided into flock yards, small en­closed ar­eas where shep­herds graze their sheep dur­ing the day and where they keep them at night when the weather is nice. In th­ese fields, sheep can safely graze in an en­closed area, which keeps the sheep from wan­der­ing off.

Here, the shep­herd can keep the flock safe from wild an­i­mals which prey on sheep in this area. Wolves and other car­niv­o­rous an­i­mals are al­ways look­ing for a quick and easy meal, and a stray sheep be­comes easy fast food for a hun­gry wolf.

The en­closed area has one gate­way, one en­trance in which the shep­herd sits or lies. Noth­ing gets into or out of the gate­way with­out the shep­herd’s okay.

In an­other part of the field, caves make great stor­ing places for herds when the weather turns treach­er­ous. Here the sheep are kept safe from harsh weather and storms. Climb­ing down into the caves can present a chal­lenge as there is room for one or two an­i­mals to travel at a time. Each sheep is counted, and if one is miss­ing, the shep­herd can safely leave the flock here with a stone over the gate. The shep­herd can then go search­ing for the lost sheep.

Je­sus used many il­lus­tra­tions of shep­herd­ing in his teach­ings, equat­ing him­self with the Good Shep­herd, the one who counts ev­ery sheep, knows each by name, and would give his life for his sheep. Je­sus is our Good Shep­herd who leads us and guards us and makes sure that we have what we need to grow spir­i­tu­ally in this life. When we fol­low our Shep­herd, lis­ten­ing to his voice, we will be safe even through the storms of life. Je­sus walks with us and guides us if we will be good sheep and lis­ten to his voice.

How are you fol­low­ing the voice of the Good Shep­herd? If you have wan­dered away, know that his voice is call­ing to you to fol­low him. Will you lis­ten to his voice speak qui­etly to your soul to­day?

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