"Know that the Lord is God--it is God that has made us; we belong to God. We are God's people, the sheep of God's own pasture." - Psalm 100: 3
I love this short, cheerful Psalm.
It calls us to, "Enter God's gates with thanksgiving; and God's courts with praise." It makes me think--or better, feel--the happiness of going to church, the sense of anticipation on a Sunday morning, the joy in gathering and the feeling of being caught up in praise of God, "who is good, whose steadfast love lasts forever."
But for some the whole sheep thing is hard, a downgrade. Sheep are dumb. Sheep stand around going "Baa, baa." Sheep are passive. Sheep are dependent. "I'm no sheep."
Actually, I am sheep-like, or what I imagine sheep to be like, at least some of the time. I need my human version of green pastures and still waters, some safe pasture and sanctuary. I need a good shepherd to turn to, to check in with. I am dependent, at least every now and then. I want, some days or hours, to rest on the everlasting arms and be rocked on the bosom of Abraham.
But we're big on independence, on being in charge and on our own. Okay. But really, we are both, both dependent and independent.
We gather to worship as a return to a womb. We come back to the rock from which we were hewn, to the well from which we were drawn. There's a time for that and a place for that. You've been being big and independent all week long. Now you get to rest, to depend on an Other and turn to a power greater than your own.
But it doesn't last forever. The benediction is a blessing but also a charge. A sweet farewell and a kick in the butt. Now, the pendulum swings the other direction. Having drawn near to God in the hour of worship and prayer, we are blessed and sent forth into the world to declare God's praise and be instruments of God's grace. I love the church.
That's the Christian life: gathering and scattering. Frequent factory recalls and regular road tests. Dependence and independence. Not one or the other, but both. Sometimes sheep, sometimes shepherds.
Thank you, Lord, for the church, for its life of worship and service, for its rhythm of gathering in and sending out. Thank you for every community of faith where we find both rest and challenge. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.