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Pastoral Letter

From the Rector - The Reverend Geoffrey Smith

1 June 2019

Many of today’s world leaders control people using their military might. Others manage this by being a leading member of an influential political party. Yet now and again we hear of people who show a kind of leadership not based on worldly power or prestige. Such people would include the likes of Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Their compassion for the weak came from the same source as their passion in the fight for justice and human rights. They acted as good stewards, modelling a leadership that expresses itself in service.

This is the kind of leadership for all those disciples who take as their guide Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. There are many depictions of the Good Shepherd in our churches. Sometimes he is a tender figure holding a young lamb close to his breast. In his Gospel, St John uses the image of the shepherd to link Jesus to shepherds of old. King David, before he became the protector of Israel, developed his skills minding sheep. Despite the romantic myths surrounding this occupation, a shepherd’s life in those days was in reality a tough one. Accompanying one’s flock through the mountains and open spaces could be a life-threatening task. A good shepherd would have to show a deep concern for his sheep and more than a little courage in the face of danger from hostile weather, wildlife and bandits.

The so-called leaders in the time of Christ enjoyed the status and privileges of authority but did not go out of their way to lift the very heavy burdens most of the people laboured under. In John’s gospel he quotes Jesus referring to them as ‘ hired hands’ who have no real concern for their flocks. The sheep don’t follow them because they don’t recognise their call as being genuine. Jesus, he says, knows each of his flock by name and they follow him because they recognise the genuineness and integrity of the shepherd, whose voice has the ring of truth and whose care of them is genuine and effective.

That voice can be heard in the most unlikely of places and from the most unusual of people. Our task is to be willing to listen for that voice and as his flock act accordingly. We are called to seek out the marginalised and shepherd them back into the safety of the flock, including all those who feel they may have strayed too far for anyone to care, or bother to find them once more. It means, therefore, speaking out against anything that causes people in our community to feel unwanted or unloved.

There are many who would be leaders today but few who will give of themselves in the service of others, or reach out to the stranger in our midst. So let us pray for more Good Shepherds in our country and society today.