Jesus said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.” - Matthew 10:16a (NRSV)
When I was a child, I had a persistent daydream of being adopted by a pack of wolves. I loved the idea of romping all day in a forested meadow, and curling up all night in a warm puppy pack.
I never really thought that much about what it would be like to have a sheep family. I had it backwards, as it turns out.
The flocking instinct of sheep is so strong that, if there are no other sheep on hand, a single sheep will attempt to form a flock with any other animals around – ducks, pigs, even dreamy little girls. But wolves, I recently learned, will almost never accept another animal into their pack.
Childhood fantasies notwithstanding, Jesus calls us to be sheep instead of wolves. And having learned about their flocking instincts, I understand why. Samaritan women, fisherfolks, even tax collectors who collaborated with the oppressor – Jesus flocked with all kinds, not just with his own kind.
Jesus sends us into a world that says we should form packs only with those who look, talk, think, act, and pray the same way. He calls us to be part of unlikely flocks – and if we don’t have one, to form one, and to keep growing it. In other words, Jesus sends us out to be sheep in a world of wolves.
Shepherd Jesus, we follow you, even if it seems ridiculous or impractical or dangerous, because we believe that through you is life. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.