When he/she forgets what they’re there for… thats the idea at the heart of what the prophet Jeremiah is saying in the Essential Jesus passage today (chapter 23, verses 1-9, if you were wondering). Jeremiah was a prophet who condemned poor working practices among the agricultural industry in Israel- particularly speaking against harsh growing environments for crops, careless sowing of seed- hang on, thats not right… Ok, trying again, Jeremiah was a prophet- check. But he wasn’t speaking against shepherds and farmers, rather he was using the imagery to speak against the religious leaders of the people. Instead of drawing the people together and caring for them, they were destroying their faith and causing disunity. And Jeremiah, in standard prophetic form gives an ultimatum ‘the day will come, when i’ll find a replacement for you’- no deadline given, but a definite disciplinary warning.
And who’ll be that replacement? Well, fortunately for us, God doesn’t say ‘I’ve a great idea, its called a vicar- you can load all your expectations onto them and it’ll be fine’ but rather ‘a righteous Branch’, ‘a King’, ‘the Lord our Righteousness’- which all contributed to the hopes of a messiah king, and would have been front and centre in the minds of his listeners when Jesus said ‘I am the Good Shepherd’.
Cool- Jesus is the man, we like that. Only problem is that Jesus then went on to say ‘off you go- do likewise’ to all of his followers: heal, teach, make disciples… thats all of us. In the Kingdom of God there are no professionals and no amateurs- some of us have been learning for a while longer, and some are new to this, but we’re all called to be shepherds, and we all need to be part of a flock.
BTW, if you’re reading this and have no concept of the whole shepherd/sheep thing, sorry about that… go research it on wikipedia or maybe find your nearest shepherd and watch them at work.