At one of the churches my mother served, when I would visit, I used to wander and look at all the portrayals of Jesus that were displayed in various spaces. When I think of the good shepherd, these images come to mind: Jesus holding (often cuddling) a lamb in a pastoral scene of reunion with the flock. A particular latch-hook portrait of Jesus with a black lamb over his shoulders lives in my memory.
These portrayals don’t show why the lamb was on their own, the dangers that they may have been in, or how afraid they were. Jesus is depicted in the light of serene caring, which is just part of the story. We don’t see art of the fierce defenders shepherds are against the hazards a lost sheep or a whole flock might face.
The shepherd knows each of his sheep— where and when we were born, who we are, and what we need. He knows all the things that make us ourselves, all the hurts in us, and he loves us. He’ll face down the dangers of the wilderness for us, going so far as to lay down his life for us.
The flock of that church made it known when I was no longer wanted as a part of their fold. Yet when my outcast wandering took me far away, Jesus came after me. In the face of danger in the wilderness, the shepherd defends me, and through a rough and rugged landscape full of despair continues to carry me. He does so for all of us, no matter what color the sheep. Can’t capture that in a latch-hook, can we?
Prayer: Caring, strong, sure and good shepherd, lead us each in our pilgrimage. You call our names, and we will follow you on the path you show us. Amen.
Mitchel Leet is the Program Manager for Room for All. He resides in the Finger Lakes region of New York State with his wife, Cameron, and is passionate about rescuing dogs, local history, gardening, and art. As a pastor’s kid rooted in his trust in God’s unconditional love, Mitch seeks to draw the circle wide and strengthen connections through compassion.