Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shepherd Sunday thoughts, only a few weeks late...

I've heard a lot of different versions of Good Shepherd Sunday homilies, and most of them talk about how stupid sheep are (not the best place to start when you're preaching TO the sheep! Still, it's true, my shepherd-friend will concur, I believe. Sandi's dad used to say something like "the IQ of one sheep is 10. The combined IQ of 10 sheep is 5." This I have found also to be applicable to middle school boys. But I digress). 
But if I were going to do a homily on Shepherd Sunday, I would tell this story:
I grew up in Maine, yes, and did have a dear friend in high school who raised and showed sheep. I was lucky to be invited to travel and help her with some shows, and had a blast doing it. We wore tan pants (so as to make the sheep look whiter) and blucher mocs (so as to easily scrape the poop off the smooth soles) and tickled the sheep's bellies (so as to make them stand up straighter (but not too much, or they'd hunch, just like we would with too much tickling). I learned a lot. 
One thing I learned was a great model of community and youth ministry. We were at the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield MA, and between our turns we watched the Border Cheviots compete.  I remember the name because Sandi called them "Border Idiots." They are a bouncy breed, and if you want to know what the word "gambol" means, you can see it demonstrated by a Cheviot. 
At one point, one of the Cheviots got loose from its handler. Here is where I witnessed this beautiful image. As the sheep bounced around the pen, impossible to catch, I saw people rise from their seats all around the ring. People from all sides stood slowly, and began to step toward the bouncing sheep. Soon I could see that they were forming a ring around the bouncy devil, slowly closing in on her. Finally the circle closed in around the sheep and someone got ahold of her and returned her to her rightful spot. Satisfied, everyone else went back to their seats for the rest of the festivities. 
I have come to see that this was a great example for a church community. When that sheep was bouncing around, out of control, everyone was ready to help- the owner of the sheep didn't even have to ask, and no one demanded thanks. Everyone cared enough to do their part. Together, they did what one person, or a few people, could never do. And that circle of concern... well, that seems, still, so beautiful to me. Surrounding one in need with a circle of care is just what we should be doing for each other- and especially, I think, for the youngest of us, so often bounding and bouncing out of control. I dream of a church that responds this way. 


sandi said...

Ahhh! Beautifully remembered and written. One of so many lessons those sheep taught!

(Now MY stand-out memory of that particular trip (oh, besides your twin nephews arriving in the world!!) would have to be our left turn taken after I picked you up at college; arriving in Boston at 1 am when we were supposed to have been in Springfield by 11! BOY was I mad!)

Her Harlequin said...

once again I am trapped at the beginning of your post with a thought in my head and barely get through the rest (my fault, not yours) but here is one of my favorite signs:


(referring to the sheep or the middle school boys, not the sheep people!)

Anonymous said...

See--- now what a nice homily that would make. Do you ever feel your talents are overlooked in a church that doesn't allow women as priests?

margmor said...

Hey there Anonymous! That's a thought-provoking question. There have been times in my career that I would have responded with a resounding "you betcha" but you know, there are lots of opportunities to share talents like these in non-priestly contexts in the Church today. In fact, I've come to think the things God has called me to do with the talents God gave me would be pretty limited by being in position of pastor or parish priest. Believe me, I know that women have a long way to go in the Church, but we've also come a long way- so much of what happens in parishes is because women make it happen, whether the congregation knows that or not. Whatever stage of progress the Church is in, I think that God puts us all in the right place to use our talents. In the past I've definitely been in parishes where my talents were overlooked and unappreciated, but I'm happy to say there are some (like where I minister now) where they are not. My talents are really valued here and I'm far from overlooked- and I get to share my writing in contexts in and out of the church building, like here.
Thanks for writing, and making me think!