At Carlsbad-By-The-Sea (CBTS) this week our gospel passage looked at the sheep management customs of Jesus’ time. People highly valued sheep, the shepherds knew which sheep were theirs, which belonged to someone and the sheep themselves knew to whom they belonged. With Jesus as our Good Shepard we, the sheep, know His voice and how we should respond in following Him.
In my pastoral care this week I intended to build upon previous weeks questions of “how we recognize Jesus” and “where is our sheepfold and how do we know our Shepard’s voice”
This week I conducted visits to someone I had visited last week but most of the times I visited he was already involved in other activities such as bathing or musical therapy. On the days we did connect we sat quietly, talked only occasionally and prayed together. These were times when I realized we do not always need to talk to connect with each other and with God.
I also visited a resident, who is 100 years old in October this year, who had fallen and had been taken to hospital. She had returned to the Care Center and was determined to complete her physical therapy exercises so that she could go back to her un-assisted living apartment. We had a great discussion about 2 friends of hers who she thinks are not believers. They both do many good works for others within this community so there must be something working within them even if they profess to be non-believers. We discussed that Jesus has “other sheep” that He is inviting in and right to the end of our lives God is near us and always inviting us into a relationship with Him. Of course He offers this relationship and salvation but everyone has free will to accept or reject it. We agreed that is not us who can judge people, only God can do that. We can just encourage and try to bring them to Christ in the small things we do. As she is concerned about who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell I suspect this conversation will continue.
There was another person I ministered to this week who had been in the Care Center (skilled nursing) for a while and had now returned to her apartment in Assisted Living. She had not been seen by the other people in the Care Center for a while so I invited her to attend the Bible Study session I was leading there this week. When she arrived she was welcomed back with hugs and so much love that it really made me feel that there is definitely a sheepfold within the Care Center. Her return to see them that afternoon made me think of Luke 15 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, comes home, and calls together his friends and neighbors to tell them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep!”
In the larger, General Bible Study Group we discussed the Good Shepard and one person informed us that there are now some farmers that have Llamas to protect sheep rather than dogs. Apparently they are better at fighting off coyotes and protecting the sheep. This conversation prompted discussion on how we should all look out for and protect each other even if we are getting along in years and often do not feel strong.
Throughout the week I noticed how we are in one large sheepfold (the Church) and within that there are multiple sheep pens (St Michael's Church, CBTS etc.). As sheep we all stray, sometimes between sheep pens and sometimes we try to stray outside the sheepfold altogether. But we are called back by our Good Shepherd’s voice.
These are a few examples of that showed me that people, like sheep are vulnerable, and we can all help each other and watch out for each other no matter what community or sheepfold we are in. Plus we should listen to hear our Good Shepard’s voice and follow Him so that he can protect us from the spiritual dangers of this world.
If there is one key thing I have learned this week is that people, like sheep, cannot be treated like tasks on a project plan or schedule. Each day I can plan out meetings such as bible studies and visits with the best intentions of carry them out. Thanks be to God that He is not on my timeline and schedule so although there are some things that happen as planned many do not.
Throughout the week I feel that I have been ministering within a sheepfold and am being guided to do our Lord’s will when He wants me to do it rather than any schedule I may agree.
For me this week has been formulation in trust (Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD. And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit”