The Heart of a Shepherd

Have you ever wondered what God is like?  This, of course, is a big question, one that no human mind can fully grasp, but thankfully God has told us part of what He is like through his Holy Scriptures.

Our Church is called "Church of the Good Shepherd," and includes a term that hardly ever comes up in daily conversation:  "shepherd."  But while we don't talk about shepherds a whole lot these days, the Bible is filled with them, and the concept of the shepherd is one that God uses to tell us something about himself.    In the future on this blog we will look at two passages of Scripture that can tell us what it means that God is the Shepherd of his people (Psalm 23 and John 10), but before we do that, I want to talk about one way God has made for us to experience his "shepherdness" on a daily basis.  God has given us pastors and priests to show us what it means to be shepherded by Him (1 Peter 5:1-5).  As a priest, I can tell you that we fail so much.  But as a priest, I can tell you that also that by the grace of God, most pastors and priests have God's heart for his people, that though we fail to love perfectly, God has given us a piece of his heart, as it were, to love his people with.  

I can think of no better place where this heart is expressed than in the priest's ordination service for the Anglican Church.  In this service the Bishop, as a fellow elder and a representative of the whole Church, offers the following exhortation (this is a small part of it): 

"...Now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you remember how dignified and important is your calling: to be a messenger, watchman, and steward of the Lord; to teach and to warn, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; and to seek for Christ’s lost sheep, his children in the midst of this fallen world, that they may be saved by him forever.

Always remember, therefore, how great a treasure is the congregation committed to your charge. They are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood.  The Church and congregation you will serve is his bride, his body.  And if it should happen that the Church, or any member thereof, is hurt or hindered by your negligence, you know the significance of your fault, and the grievous judgment that will follow. For this reason never cease to labor, with care and diligence, until you have done all that you are able, according to the promises you make, to bring those committed to your charge into that unity in the faith and knowledge of God, and to maturity and fullness in Christ, that there might be no place left among you either for error in religion, or for persistently indulging the vices of life.

Be mindful, however, that you cannot do this on your own; for the will and the ability is given by God alone. Therefore you ought, and need, to pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. And seeing that there are no other means to accomplish such an important work, as it pertains to the salvation of souls;   consider how studiously you ought to read and learn the Scriptures, and conduct yourself, your household, and all those committed to your care, according to its rule, to be a wholesome and godly example for your people to follow. For this reason, you ought to forsake and set aside all worldly cares and concerns as much as you are able."

Perhaps you've wondered: "What is my pastor supposed to be doing?"  Or maybe you've had ideas of your own about what you think a pastor should be doing.  At Church of the Good Shepherd, both Fr. Keith and myself see this exhortation as being in perfect accord with the teachings of Scripture on the pastoral office, and we seek to live our lives according to this exhortation.  If you want to know what we are supposed to do, just re-read that exhortation above.    

Perhaps you've wondered: "What does my pastor think about me?" Know this, beloved Christian:  We love you with God's love.  Yes, we are sinful men, and yes, we love imperfectly, but as men charged by God to care for your souls, we seek to teach you God's Word, root-out the sin your heart, take away the doubts you have towards the Gospel, in order that you may be saved as God's own forever, being an ambassador of Christ all your days.   The church given to our care is on our hearts, and this region God has sent us to is in our prayers.

This is a snapshot of the Shepherd's heart.