Please excuse me for using an analogy that is dated and offensive for some people. But as a pastor (a word taken from the root word for shepherd), I often have a useful picture of myself dressed in shepherd's clothes with a shepherd's crook sitting in the grass leaning against a tree overlooking the flock. The flock is gently grazing in the lush grass or lying down or drinking from the nearby stream. I might have a book in my hands or a guitar, and I simply pass the day making sure that there is no danger approaching, that the sheep are not being harmed by another one, that the water is pure and the grass is poison-free. There's some veterinarian work to do, some meandering travel, some minor intervention, but that's it. Nothing else. Nothing at all. We pass the day, and every other day should hopefully be the same. I think that this is good pastoral ministry. In fact, I insist that this is pastoral ministry at its best!
I confess that I am very tempted to follow the bustling throng and, like most other shepherds seem to be doing, teach my sheep how to jump through hoops of fire, stand on their heads, form sheep-pyramids, shoulder a yoke and haul stone, hook them up to ploughs and clear forests and all kinds of other tricks. Or perhaps I could teach my sheep how to give me full-body massages. Or maybe they can chop pieces off themselves to cook me up something to eat whenever I get a hankering for lamb. Or, why don't we just speed things up and I slaughter them all and sell their meat and turn their hides into sports-car seat covers? And I could sell the rams' horns for shofars to blow during worship songs.
I was chatting with someone today who mentioned that it must be very very stressful being a pastor. "I just can't imagine," he said. I told him that the hardest part of pastoring for me is keeping things simple. Staving off all temptations for theatrics is the hardest part. Simply relaxing against that tree overlooking the flock doesn't seem to cut it in popular opinion. Just letting the sheep be without micro-managing their rumps off is just too... too... too pastoral!
Oh... look how even old posts can stir up the controversy we thought had settled!
And look how nice this guy is to me!
The pic is just one I dragged off the internet. A young man doing his mundane day to day passion as a shepherd. I think he's beautiful.