But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:2-3 ESV
As we approached, the little flock of sheep crossed the small gravel road and huddled together with their faces pressed against a building. They hid their faces maybe hoping that we wouldn’t see them. But after our car passed over the rutted road, the young boy acting as their shepherd patiently led them back towards their pasture. Though we had intended them no harm; the sheep did not feel safe in our presence. They did not know us and we did not know their names.
That flock of sheep that I met once in India, remind me a lot of the people I meet in nursing homes every week. They sit passively in their wheel chairs or geriatric recliners and stare. Because of our disconnected and fast paced lives; many of them have been forgotten by friends and family, except at holidays when a few come to visit. If you sense God is calling you to be involved and you wonder where to start – then begin by remembering their names. Yes every one has a name and you will be amazed as the vacant looks and blank stares turn to smiles when you call them Joe or Vera or Mary. Remember that there is a good shepherd whose name is Jesus. He is calling us all one by one. He has promised to lead us to green pastures and still waters to restore our souls. He remembers every name in every place and no one is forgotten by God!
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:4-5 NKJV
Hi! “I’m Helen*. I’m from Kaiser Valley!” she greets me every week. Helen (not her real name) is perky, funny, and she now lives in
the Alzheimer’s ward at the nursing home I visit. Helen has an amazing memory for the verses of all the hymns. For most of her life, Helen attended church,sang in the choir, gave her offerings and like so many others she never once receives a visit from her pastor.
Being a pastor isn’t an easy job. Most people don’t understand the pressures, the demands and the temptations that we face every week. But pastors are also shepherds and as shepherds we are called to help to take care of sheep. Some sheep pay their tithes faithfully, dress nicely and shake our hands to tell us they loved the message. But some sheep lose their way. In this parable Jesus is talking about a lost sheep just like my friend Helen from Kaiser Valley. She is a sheep who has wandered off a little too far. One day she looked around and the rest of the flock was gone! There were no familiar landmarks. She cannot find anyone to help her find her way home. What all the Helens and Bobs and Alices and Marys need are shepherds who will come looking for them. Do not take this message as just another guilt trip, but rather as a gentle encouragement to remember how joyful it is when Jesus finds any one of us. Remember that the business of finding lost sheep is a great joy for both the shepherd and the sheep!
Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. Matthew 18:10
They are just helpless sheep and a good opportunity to exploit to a wolf. But to the owner of the sheep they are precious and worth defending. They are worth being cared for. They are worth something unexplainable, that links them to the Shepherd.
That is exactly what our Father sees when he looks behind the walls of our modern nursing home. Though the residents may seem to be of little value to our fast paced consumer culture, they are of infinite worth to God. If we will treat these little lambs with kindness their angels will see. Remember that God’s takes special delight in His weakest lambs!