A lorry driver once pulled up at a roadside cafe – a greasy spoon – for breakfast.
As he was tucking into his mountain of sausage, bacon, runny fried eggs,Lorne sausage, mushrooms, grilled tomato, black pudding, baked beans, fried tattie scone, giant mug of tea with four spoonfuls of sugar, and a mountain of toast, he quietly skimmed through the pages of his paper – the Financial Times, of course – occasionally pausing to chew his way through his packet of Rennies.
Halfway through his meal, three wild-looking bikers roared up–bearded, leather-jacketed, filthy.
They went over to the lorry driver, snatched his paper from him and poured his tea over it, before rubbing his beans in his hair, and shaking HP sauce down the front of his shirt.
The poor chap never said a word, just stood up, paid his bill, and left.
“That lorry driver isn’t much of a man,” sneered one of the bikers.
The girl behind the counter, peering out into the car park, added, “He doesn’t seem to be much of a truck driver, either. He just run over three motorcycles.”
We can communicate in different ways!
The pithy saying, the sarcastic comment, the word of comfort or of encouragement; perhaps just a smile.
It can be as simple as a hug; as complex as the language and jargon of the expert – be he or she be a medic, professor, technician, scientist, or whoever.
Sometimes, our communication skills and actions can be over complicated.
There once was a shepherd herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW roared down the road and screeched to a halt beside him. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and Yves St Lauren silk shirt, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?” The shepherd looks at this flash dandy, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, “OK Why not?” So the smart young man presses the touch screen on his dashboard, puts in certain co-ordinates in his satnav, links it to his phone by Bluetooth, and connects it to his very expensive looking laptop which is resting on the passenger seat.
Various buttons are pressed. Then – after five minutes or so, he triumphantly announces “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.” “That’s right” says the shepherd, “Well, I suppose you can take one of my sheep”
He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car. Then the shepherd says to the young man, “ if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my beast?
“ The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “OK, why not?” “You’re a business consultant.” says the shepherd. “Spot on! That’s correct, but how did you guess?” “No guessing required.” answered the shepherd. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked; and you don’t know a thing about my business…
…Now give me back my collie dug!”
I once wrote a particular essay at University many years ago. The only “red mark” on it was the tutor’s comment scribbled after the last convoluted, over elaborate conclusion: it read “clarity is the essence of communication – this you don’t seem to have grasped!” Ouch!
When Jesus talked, his listeners understood. Sometimes, we’re told, they didn’t always “get” the meaning of some of his parables, but he would go on to explain them to his audience.
But so often, he would talk with clarity. Nothing complex or particularly esoteric. Many times, he would use everyday illustrations – matters that his listeners were acquainted with in their daily life.
So when Jesus talked about sheep and shepherding, his audience would immediately connect with that picture. They lived in a pastoral society, surrounded by flocks. It was an everyday part of life. They ‘got’ what Jesus was trying to communicate. Here was something simple, straightforward, relevant, clear.
And let’s say this: shepherding was part of his society’s theological heritage and culture.
Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks.
Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him into a special service.
David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel.
The imagery of the shepherd was also imprinted upon the literature of the day.
The 23rd Psalm is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters.”
Isaiah speaking of the coming of the Messiah said: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms.”
Yes, the tradition of the shepherd was very much a part of the cultural ethos of that society and that time.
Look especially at the New Testament.
For example, there’s the parable of the lost sheep: a shepherd had 100 sheep, and one wandered off.
Remember the old hymn “There were ninety and nine that safely lay…” The shepherd, representing God, the Father (just as with the parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son), searches for the lost sheep and brings it back to be part of the full flock once more – as God wishes for all his “lost” children.
Another time, when Jesus was speaking to a great throng of people, we’re told that he had compassion upon them because they were “as sheep without a shepherd.”
Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith, then, the image of the shepherd has a prominent place.
In our scripture text for this morning Jesus again taps into this imagery when he refers to himself as the good shepherd. As talked about earlier (in the Children’s Story), a shepherd cares for his flock, wants only the best for them, guards and protects them – that’s good shepherding…that’s how God in Christ cares for us. He gives – unreservedly – unconditionally
Once a school inspector was questioning a wee girl – examining her on her arithmetical skills…..
“If you had £5” asked the Inspector, “and you asked your Dad for another £5 and 50 pence, how much money would you have?”
“Five Pounds.” she answered
“You don’t know your basic maths.” said the Inspector shaking his head, disappointed.
Wee Jeannie shook her head too, “You don’t know my Faither”
But we know our Heavenly Father…..
Many years ago, a minister once encountered a shepherd on a country lane.. “You know,” he said. “You’re the first real, live shepherd I’ve ever met. Do you mind me asking what you think of when you hear the expressions ‘The Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd’?
The answer was more than he ever could have expected. The old shepherd said, “You know, springtime is a very difficult time for sheep and shepherds. It’s lambing time. It’s a time of tragedy.
When many ewes are giving birth, the shepherd must often deal with problems. Sometimes a lamb dies at birth, sometimes a ewe, giving birth. Over here is a mother sheep that has lost her baby. Over there is a lamb that has lost its mother.
But sheep can be difficult animals. A sheep will not take a lamb that is not its own. And so, we have the situation of a mother full of the milk that will not nourish her baby because she has no baby to feed. And we have a lamb, hungry for life-giving nourishment and no mother to feed it. So this is what the good shepherd must do. The shepherd takes the lamb that has died and washes the orphaned lamb with its blood. Only then will the mother accept and feed the motherless lamb as her own. And that” the shepherd concluded “is what I know about ‘The Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd’”
Our Heavenly Father communicated with our race – not in an abstract, complicated, over-elaborate way – rather he sent his Son to save us.
And through the Cross, through the blood of Christ, and by his glorious Resurrection, his love is communicated to us – during this blessed Eastertide, and forever.