"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grace under Siege 32: Steel wool

     Jerry and I have only three signs of Christmas at our house. A couple of poinsettias from the market which I placed, still in their plastic pots, into the larger pots by our front door. A welcome mat with four faded, smiling gingerbread men angled across it. And the banner of a shepherd kneeling beneath a few twinkling stars. 
     I think putting those out took all of about five minutes, including shaking out the mat, watering the plants, and getting the kitchen chair for Jerry to stand on to thread the flag onto the flagstaff.
     That's all the time and energy we have had to spare. No cards, no cookies, no tree, no decorations, few gifts, no wrapping. We haven't had time to think much about Christmas.
     But I don't mind. We have had time to think about Christ. I keep seeing Him in His twofold role as shepherd and as lamb. Shepherd, defying anyone to harm us. Lamb, silently accepting the blame for our sins. Shepherd, striding home with us safely across His shoulders. Lamb, bleeding out His life for us.
     He keeps drawing me back to this motif. Lines from songs in a Christmas play flow into my innermost being like honey: "Shepherds bow before the Lamb." "The Lamb becomes our Shepherd King." 
     The Lord is my shepherd. When I wake in the night, I feel for those words and rub them between the fingers of my mind like a familiar spot worn threadbare on a favorite blankie. El Senor es mi pastor. Nada me faltara.
      The Lord is my pastor. I need that right now.
     Isaiah 53, even more than John 3:16, has become for me the heart of the gospel we no longer hear from our pulpit. I nurse at the richness of its truths like an undernourished baby: 
    All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
     "All of us, like sheep--" "We are the sheep of His pasture--" Dirty, dumb, helpless things, gullible, easily spooked. Yet He became one of us, a shepherd in a sheep's body. I feel safe in His pasture.
    But His pasture is not always safe. The apostle Paul, summoning the elders of the church of Ephesus to him on his way to Jerusalem, knowing he would not see them again, told them, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  
     "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert. . . "Acts 20:29-31a
     The whole purpose of God. That's what's missing now.  
     I had not noticed before that in Paul's warning he not only foresaw that wolves would come in among the flock from the outside to savage it, but "from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples."
     That's when I am grateful again that the LORD is my pastor.
     A friend emailed us her prayer for our church, that the Lord Jesus Christ will "rescue the sheep, nurture the lambs." I too have been praying for spiritual protection for the members of our church. Recently, as Jerry and I were praying aloud, I saw a flock of sheep--and one of them was wearing armor. I broke off my prayer, laughing, and told Jerry.
     "Armored sheep," Jerry said thoughtfully. "Steel wool?"

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had something profound or intelligent to say....I don't- but I can say...I have been following along and I am praying for you and for those in the church that may see and understand what is happening but are perhaps too afraid to speak out...*hugs*