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Whatley: The Lord is my shepherd

Sheep! There are over a billion of these ruminant quadrupeds in the world, all in the genus “Ovis” and most commonly in the species “aries.”

The adult female is a ewe, the male is a ram, and the younger sheep are lambs. A neutered male is a wether. (I had never heard that word, but my dad told me to learn at least one new thing every day.)

In a group, they are called a group, a herd, a flock, or a mob. Their peripheral vision is 270-320 degrees; they can see behind themselves without turning their heads, but they have poor depth perception.

They are common on the Navajo Reservation, where the land cannot support cows, and they use them for food and wool. Charles Dennis never went to the Reservation without, at least once, eating a bowl of mutton stew.

And the Navajo are famous for their beautifully woven rugs, made from local wool and natural dyes.  You can recognize them by a small tassel at each of the four corners.

Once, while creating a kitchen for the Burnt Corn Church and laying tile in the sanctuary, we passed a mob of sheep.

A man on horseback was watching the sheep and we were watching two sheep dogs, who were watching, not the sheep, but a coyote about a hundred yards from the mob.

The coyote would move back and forth, matched by the dogs who always stayed between the sheep and the coyote.

And then I read this passage in John, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—’” (John 10:7-14)

I’m part of a mob following a shepherd who gave his life for us and who, after rising from the dead, watches over us; he knows us and we know him. His name is Jesus!

Pastor’s viewpoint is written by Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley, a retired United Methodist pastor living in Lakemont & Ochlocknee, Georgia. He and Mary Ella serve the Woodland & Bold Springs United Methodist Churches, and lead mission teams to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.