At a recent Continuing Education event, the instructor asked us to think of an image that best summed up our understanding of Jesus. Many reached back to their childhood days in little country churches where they remembered specific pictures that hung in the sanctuary or a Sunday school classroom. I thought about the picture of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that hung on the side wall of my little United Methodist Church in Hillsville. In this picture, which I looked at for 20 plus years, I see the agony on the face of our Savior as he kneels in prayer just hours before the horrific events of what we call Holy Week. In his anguish, we get a glimpse of his love and the lengths Jesus is willing to go to save us.

Another man said it was a picture of Jesus calming the storm. For another, it was a picture of Jesus with many sheep surrounding him. Someone else reported it was the picture of Jesus with a little sheep around his shoulders. What’s not to love about a soft, cuddly lamb?

We all agreed that it was this picture of Jesus, who recklessly leaves the 99 to go look for that one lost little lamb, that gives evidence that it is Jesus’ desire to not lose even one of his little sheep.

Our Wednesday Bible Study classes are studying “The Storm Inside” by Sheila Walsh. Sheila is a prolific author. In one of her books, “Loved Back to Life,” she writes the following…

“I grew up in Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying echoing throughout pastures. Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful.

Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it.

Sometimes the lamb is rejected because it is one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk, or she is old and, frankly, quite tired of the whole business. If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may even kick the poor animal away.

They call those lambs “bummer lambs.” Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die. So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home, hand-feed it from a bottle, and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with soft blankets and hold it to his chest so the bummer will hear a heartbeat. When the lamb is strong, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock. “Off you go now, you can do this, I’m right here.”

The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls out to them, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”

The first to run to him are the bummer lambs, because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved; it’s just that they believe it. I am so grateful that Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:3-4 NLT)

I am a bummer lamb. Chances are you are too. 

I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll be broken as long as I’m on this earth. I used to think that at some point, God would fix me, and my testimony would be a great story for other people. I don’t think that will be true anymore. And I’m at peace.

I think most of us will carry with us the reminders of being broken. We bear scars from a painful divorce, the loss of a loved one, the grip of addiction, the negative report from the doctor. Oh, God will help and strengthen us in the process. We will learn a lot more. And we’ll have a greater understanding and empathy for each other because of it. But until we see Jesus face-to-face, we’ll be broken.

But this is no longer the bad news; it’s the best news!

We can dare to believe Him. We can dare to immerse ourselves in His love. We can dare to stay so close to Him that we never forget the sound of His gentle voice.”

– Sheila Walsh, “Loved Back to Life,” page 207

We are all broken. But we have a Great Shepherd who will relentlessly search for us until he finds us and brings us home

Dorothy A. Thrupp writes in her beautiful hymn, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead us”:

Thou hast promised to receive us,
Poor and sinful though we be;
Thou has mercy to relieve us,
Grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.

Do you know the sound of his voice as he calls you by name?

Pastor Russel