about writing and life and God

A sheepy tale

on October 11, 2012

I need a sheep.

Yep, you read that right. I need a sheep.

I like sheep. When I was a teenager and just as crazy as I am now, on Saturday afternoons my friends and I would pile into one friend’s car and head off to a favourite beach for a walk.

Dunnet sands, Caithness

We’d park next to a field of sheep. (For those of you who know Caithness, you’ll know this is almost a tautology. Field= sheep)

Even then, I had the preaching bug and while my friends sorted out shoes and handbags and warm jackets, I’d be up by the fence, practising on the sheep. Declaiming, as the wind caught my words and either flung them back at me, or towards the poor unsuspecting sheep.

First, the nearest sheep would stand stock still, looking at me and – maybe – listening. Then a few would pause in their rhythmic tearing of grass, raise their heads and even sometimes trot nearer to check out this strange phenomenon. Gradually, I’d have their attention.

For just one pivotal moment.

Then one would get distracted and tear up some fresh grass. A couple would make a withering comment (baaah!) and turn and trot away. And this would trigger the scattering of the flock, back to whatever they were doing before I arrived.

My friends always found it entertaining (as well as weird). You can imagine the applications they made from this experience to what I might expect in a pulpit.

But of course, it’s not the same. In church, they close the doors once they’ve got the flock inside and although withering comments are surely par for the course, turning tail and trotting off mid-sermon has not (yet!) been my experience.

But if we all are ‘sheep who have gone astray’, why do I need another one?

On Sunday, I’m doing a guest preach slot. The scripture chosen by the organisers is a tale of lust, adultery, deceit, and murder (King David and Bathsheba). The service is an All-Age service with lots of activities for the children.

Yes, I know they are probably quite familiar with lust, adultery, deceit and even murder from the general fare served up on prime-time tv but I didn’t feel too comfortable with tackling those topics head-on in that environment. However, re-reading the texts, the pivotal portion is the prophet Nathan’s story of the little ewe lamb, leading up to his declaration of David’s guilt: “You are the man!” (Check out the whole story in 2 Samuel chapter 11 and chapter 12 verses 1 to 25.)

Link the two texts I’ve quoted in this post (You are the man plus all have gone astray) and it becomes clear why the perfect visual aid is a sheep.

Now all I need is a sheep.





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