You Are an Investment
#YouAre is the podcast for April 22, 2018. What happens when you realize that Jesus has an investment in you? Did you even know you were a worthy investment before you did anything? Are you a worthy investment? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John #GoodShepherd #PayGrade #Shepherding #Sheep #Investment #Value #Sacrifice #Ignorance #Mercy
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/19/2018 The 4th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 10:11-18.
How many of us have had a job and said under our breath or out loud for all to hear, “I am not getting paid enough for this”? Or, how many of us have not taken on responsibility and have said, “That is above my pay grade”? Whereas, the person who owns the company or is in the top of management, if they are good, will sacrifice almost everything to ensure that their investment is protected.
This is not something that is foreign to the mind that is hearing Jesus say these words for the first time. The image of the “Good Shepherd” was not uncommon in Jesus’ day. David was willing to risk his life to save the sheep he was tending from the bear and lion in 1 Samuel 17. Ezekiel prophecies that one of the things God has against the leaders of the people of Israel is that they are lousy shepherds. They feed themselves, not the sheep. They made sure they took care of themselves in every way, and left the lost sheep lost, the hungry sheep hungry, and the unsafe sheep subject to being torn to pieces by the bears and lions that David put his life in danger to keep safe.
A spiritual direction client of mine recommended a book “A Shepherd looks at the 23rd Psalm” by W. Phillip Keller. The parts of the book about the craft of Shepherding are very interesting and enlightening. Shepherds, according to Keller, know each and every sheep intimately. I am amazed that they can all those sheep apart. He talks about caring for hundreds of sheep. If you have ever owned a pet, the intimate knowledge you have to have of your pet is important for their care.
I have a rescue maltese. They need to be brushed frequently because of their hair. I know my dog so well. I know where I can brush quickly and hard and where I have to slow down because the place is too sensitive. I know which types of stairs he will go down, and which ones leave him paralyzed. I even know what things I have to make him do and the stuff he is going to do with no problem.
Yet, what I know more than anything else, is that it is my responsibility to provide for my pup. I need to make sure that daily he is fed, walked, his health is checked and he is groomed as necessary. I also know my pup’s breed needs attention. Maltese’s get separation anxiety-who knew that?!? He also needs me to make sure his shots and everything are up to date. Every month he needs meds to fend of parasites.
Keller touches on all of these things. He talks about how you have to know the personality of a sheep, make them do what they don’t want to do to care for themselves. The way he talks about their personalities and how he has had to eliminate a sheep because of its bad influence on the rest of the flock is incredible. What is striking about this is how he tries every possible way to teach the sheep to get it to come around. In fact, he will give away a sheep to another shepherd and another flock to get the sheep to change. Sometimes, though, he cannot risk hurting another shepherd’s flock because the behavior is so bad and he must slaughter that sheep to protect the safety of the his entire flock.
Keller’s accounting of how painful that is for the shepherd is amazing. It is with the same tenderness with which we talk about our animals in our home. Yet, his love for the rest of the sheep trumps his willingness to allow the dangerous behavior of the one sheep to cause the notorious following tendency of the other sheep to be infected with unsafe behavior.
He talks about the danger of parasites coming into a flock. It is something that if it happens can hurt the entire flock and leave a shepherd without wool for shearing or venison to sell. So, there is this investment that he is making on both a personal level and a business level. The stakes are high. If he does not know one of his sheep, he can lose the entire flock.
This is the context of Jesus saying, “My sheep know my voice. I am the Good Shepherd.” He loves and cares for us by knowing us intimately. He knows what we need and gives it to us. Sometimes he (kindly voice) gives it to us and sometimes he (firm voice) “gives is to us”. It depends upon what we need and how he can keep us healthy as part of the flock.
Would it strike you as strange to think of yourself as Jesus’ investment? None of us has earned our own life. We were given life as a gift through the Logos at the beginning of the Gospel of John. None of us has earned or deserved forgiveness of sins. We were given that on the Cross as a free gift. The goal of an earthly shepherd is to get us safely to the shearing. The goal of the Good Shepherd is to get us to heaven. We are offered eternal life. When you come to think of it, we are Jesus’ investment, he gave up his life for us. It was not above his pay grade. He did it freely.
So, knowing you are a sheep, an investment of God, how should you look at yourself? You were valuable enough for the Savior of the Universe to pay the price for you with his own life. Wouldn’t that mean you are worth treating with kindness, gentleness, truthfulness, respect, and admiration? This is our armor to wear against a world that constantly tells us we are not beautiful or handsome enough; we are not smart enough; we are not pure enough; good enough, whatever enough. If that were true, then why would the Widsom of the Universe, the Good Shepherd, lay down his life for us?
Additionally, this means that others are investments of the Good Shepherd, too. We ought to be concerned when others allow a parasite to come into them. We ought to look upon them with mercy, kindness, gentleness, truthfulness, respect, and admiration especially when they do not know their own worth. When they are stupid, arrogant, uncaring, etc., they are ignorant of the importance of their lives and the lives of others. They are ignorant. They don’t know. How can someone be judged by us when they are acting out because they don’t know their worth?
People don’t realize that using foul language disrespects their mouths. Nor do they realize that indiscriminate sex disrespects the specialness of our whole person and how we give away our entire soul to a person through sex. We don’t realize that telling lies instead of standing up for our person degrades our independence. They don’t realize that bragging about themselves or putting down others means they don’t realize how much they are worth without doing a thing: all of us are worth the death and Resurrection of the Savior of the World!
How, then, are you going to allow your attitude about yourself to be changed? How are you going to change your attitude about others? Do it by laying down the life of your own opinions about yourself and others. Do it by looking at others through the eyes of the Resurrected and renewing Lord. You are his investment, his treasure, and his representative to others who need to know what it means to be a valued sheep who has a Good Shepherd. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian