The lent of a shepherd.

As a pastor (shepherd) of a flock your main concern and work is about the flock of sheep you have been put in place to care for and protect. You repair fences to protect from wild animals (a living tradition and theology), you look for new pastures when old ones does not feed your sheep any longer (pastoral care and prayer) and you feed and nurture the sheep  (distributing the sacraments and the Word). This is your main task and concern as a shepherd. Sometimes you spend time investigating or thinking about how you can find lost sheep (evangelism). How do you find the sheep that does not have a flock? You meet lost sheep from time to time and your heart desires to see them fed. To see them protected and in good care. I myself am from Sweden (one of the most secular countries of the world and also with the not so flattering title, “The loneliest country of the world”, hmm maybe there is a connection between the two?) so I run into sheep like this quite often when I visit my home country (in Canada, where I live now I meet them quite often as well). My heart goes out and wishes to see them whole not because I am extra “pious” but because I know that I am lost without my Shepherd as well. I know that until we find refuge in the Shepherd we will eat and eat from the table of the world and never be full. So you long to tell the lost sheep where the pasture and where the water is. Not so much because you want to have “a thousand sheep in your flock” (this is “pastor hubris” and a very common affliction in the Church today) but because you desire to see them whole and at peace. A shepherds heart goes out to the lonely and hungry sheep. At the same time you do not want to leave your flock of sheep unattended for to long. You need to be able to fight of animals and fix the fence. So this tension is created for the Shepherd, this movement but at the same time remaining. This tending the flock and seeking for lost sheep. It is no coincidence that the pastor finds himself in this tension. The Shepherd of all is in the same “tension” and He is the one Who can really do it. He remains what He Is as He enter Jerusalem (the world) to find His lost Sheep. He tends the lost sheep, seeking them out at the same time as He is keeping close attention to His flock. He faces the enemy (the ruler of this world) in a fake trial but at the same time He remains faithful to the task that lies ahead.  His task of entering the roughest place of all. Looking at Him I realize that I am lost without Him. Without the Tree of Life I am just a broken off palm branch, a lost sheep. But He seeks me out, He invites me in to His flock, to His family. My desire as a pastor becomes to imitate Him as much as I can (and I fail all the time), to remain with the flock but also to seek out the lost. And when Christ seeks out the lost He does not come with a “ready to sign pamphlet in what and how to believe”, He comes on a colt of a donkey, close to the ground, so that He can hear the concerns and prayers of the lost. He comes as a servant, to attend to your soul (what an awesome mystery this is). He comes as a caring Shepherd ready to lie down His life for you, His lost sheep. If we that are pastors truly wish to see the lost sheep healed, there is no other way than this. We also must lie down our lives for the flock and for the lost. We must follow His example, entering the world (Jerusalem) in a humble manner.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob

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