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Methodist Circuit
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April 2021 – Shepherds and Sheep

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At the end of a week in which the terrifying reality of the continuing presence of the COVID pandemic has been reported daily; an armed police officer in Minnesota was found guilty of all charges relating to the murder of George Floyd and the Prime Minister has become further embroiled in the controversy about lobbying, access to ministers and the newly-built £26m press suite in Downing Street which is not now to be used (apparently), surely I am not the only one reflecting on the nature of leadership as we approach the upcoming local elections.

The readings set for this week offer us a model of leadership that seems to be less in evidence than one would wish. In 1 John 3, the scene is set for pastoral leadership which will not only address the politics of the day, but also attend generously to the financial and pastoral needs of the community. A task that remained the responsibility of the faith communities for many years (and still does, despite the provision of a national system of support and care for those who need it). The central point here is the juxtaposition of truth and action, underpinned by the ethical stance towards humanity that comes when one lives a life founded on the love that Jesus commands. This is so much more than a simple moral example; the writer is drawing attention to the inner transformation that takes place in a person's life when we abide in God and God (in the person of the Holy Spirit) abides in us.

The nature of the relationship between shepherd and sheep is offered in John's gospel (John 10:11-18). The theme of kindness and well-being for others is at the forefront of this passage as John explores what it is that Jesus has come to offer to the sheep of the House of Israel. The reading brings with it the words attributed to Jesus that he is not simply to be the shepherd for the that are already within the fold, but also for those who are outside it, for whom he carries a responsibility.

It seems to me that the model of the shepherd as leader, whether in a church context or in a secular one, is one that challenges the examples that we are so often told are the good role models that we should emulate... but think what Jesus says about those who do not have the same attitude towards the sheep...

"The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away--and the wolf snatches them and scatters them." (John 10:12)

What kind of leadership are we supportive of and do we model in our own lives? The cost of care can never be fully explained on a spreadsheet or in a budget... it will always require those who lead to give of themselves and "not to count the cost..."

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