A Shepherd To Lead Us
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Trinity and St. Jacob’s on May 7, 2017, the Fourth Sunday in Easter. The gospel reading is John 10:1-21.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This is “Good Shepherd” Sunday in our church calendar. We get the chance to look at a wonderful image that is presented to us of Jesus, the shepherd who guides the sheep in both gentle and forceful ways.
I have a shepherd’s crook with me. Sometimes church bishops and the pope carry such a stick, called a crozier, to symbolize the role of pastoral leadership. Shepherds who have sheep make good and practical use of a crook, sometimes called a staff. A staff can be used to calm the sheep and assure them that everything is okay and the shepherd is watching out for them. The staff can also be used as a nudge to keep the sheep going in the right direction. You can also use the staff as a weapon of defense. The crook can be used to rescue sheep who are in danger, and pull them back.
When I was a young pastor, our church decided to put on a musical entitled “The Story Telling Man”. It was about Jesus and one of the stories had to do with rescuing the lost sheep. I was selected to play Jesus. We needed to find a little lamb, and finding one in Los Angeles was difficult. We finally found a young goat who played the part of the lost sheep. The goat did great, but what do you do with a goat after the musical is all over? Well, we gave him a home at our church camp in the Angeles National Forest and the kids named him Jimmy. Our goat loved children and was the camp mascot. That goat had a real adventure in the winter of 1978. A massive flood destroyed the camp, but rescuers found Jimmy on top of one of the heavily damaged dormitories. He had beat the odds and lived on to a very ripe old age.
In chapter 10 of John’s gospel, we hear about a shepherd who really cares about his sheep. The shepherd would lead his sheep out to distant areas and stay there for days. Being a good shepherd he created a temporary corral, a pen to keep the sheep in when they were not grazing. Using the crude stones of the field a shepherd could quickly put together such a structure and at night he would lay his body down in the opening of this corral making himself the door. No sheep could wonder away at night unless it stepped over the sleeping shepherd and no wolf could come in to do harm without waking the shepherd. He is the gate.
The sheep completely trust their shepherd. They recognize his voice when he calls.
I was reading a letter on-line from Pastor Wynemah Hinlicky to the members of College Lutheran in Salem, Virginia. She announced her resignation and is moving to North Carolina this month. Here is what she wrote: Over the past few weeks I have received so many expressions of gratitude and appreciation from you. You have affirmed my gifts for pastoral care, sound preaching, and reverent leadership in worship. You have recounted times when I “was there for you” and ways our congregational life has been enriched “because of me”. You have thanked me for showing you signs of God’s living presence and the power of God’s healing love. But, please know this, none of this could have occurred had it not been for you. I could not have been a teacher had you not been willing to be a student. I could not have presided and preached had you not assembled. I could not have offered pastoral care had you not entrusted your lives to me. I could not have served as your pastor had you not called me to do so.
Our story of the good shepherd gives us the opportunity today to talk about leadership from our pastors. You are about to begin the search for your next pastor. The call committee has been appointed and will meet soon with Bishop Mauney for an orientation session. So, what qualities of leadership do you want in your next pastor, and how do they match up to what we are hearing today in the story of the good shepherd?
Here is a list of five traits of effective leadership that I think apply to the Good Shepherd and to what we want in our pastors:
- Courage I pray that pastors have the personal strength to express ideas that will be helpful to members of the church, in spite of opposition. Like the Good Shepherd, a pastor needs at time to take risks with one’s job security and reputation.
- Non-conformity A pastor needs the freedom to bring new ideas, not just keep on doing the same old thing just because “we’ve always done it that way before.”
- Foresight The pastor needs to be able to look ahead and see what’s coming. One of the gifts of the spirit mentioned in scripture is “discernment.” As I look back upon my years of pastoral ministry, I wish I could have used this gift more. Somehow, I am able to sense in people and in the community when things are honest and true and good and when things are not good and honest and true.
- Steadiness I would hope that a pastor has patience and is persistent, in spite of failures and obstacles. Timing is everything. Sometimes you just must bide your time. Other times you need to hurry up in order to be in the right place at the right time. By now you know lots about me and my style. I was once described by a fellow pastor as “affable but not letting anything deter me from my goal.”
- Righteousness May it be said of every pastor that they want to do the right thing, want to be faithful to the Lord, want to live according to biblical truths, and will do their best to speak and act and lead the truth at all times.
Just a final thought: Like Pastor Hinlicky wrote, it takes a good congregation to enable a good pastor to do his or her best. May God bring the right person to be our next pastor, and may this congregation be the right congregation to enable that pastor to do their best.