Are We Like Sheep?
“All of us are like sheep: We have wandered away from God. All of us have turned to our own way. And the Lord has placed on his servant the sins of all of us.” - Isaiah 53:6
June 2, 2007 was a good day for me, in that I went to Grace Cathedral for the Ordination Service, and came out thinking about something. I will have to give credit my Bishop Marc Andrus for making me think about this, for it was his sermon that brought it to my mind. Bishop Marc’s sermon dealt with Sheep and Shepards. Even though he didn’t talk about the topic, I began to think about the Anglican Communion, and more about the Diocese of California.
There is a wonderful book titled “The Way Of The Wolf”, by Martin Bell. It’s a collection of stories, poems and songs that are kind of like the parables of Jesus, but written in modern language and in some cases modern versions. Now I love to read short stories, and this is a book that has a wonderful collection of them. One of the stories is called “”Rag-Tag Army”. It talks about God having trouble keeping his army together as they travel, for groups within the army keep doing different things, and God has to stop what he is doing to get everyone back in step so that they can get to where they are suppose to be going. God is the Shepard, and the army is his sheep.
Another thing that came to mind is a song from Handel’s Messiah called “Are We Like Sheep?” As the song runs through my head, I wonder if the Episcopal Church has gone astray? Has this diocese gone astray from the teachings of Jesus? Have I gone astray from the Orthodox teachings that I was taught in the congregation that I grew up in when I was living in another diocese?
When God created the world, one of the first things that he gave to all of his creatures was the freedom of choice. We as humans always say that he gave just us the freedom of choice, but if you really think about it, he gave the choice to all of his creatures. Just recently a couple of humpback whales made the choice of going up the San Pablo Bay towards Sacramento. Some people will say that they got lost, but how do we really know that they were lost? They could of chose to stay with the others in their pod, but they chose to venture off to take another route.
As I read the stuff that is going on in the Anglican Communion, it makes me wonder if the ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada are sheep that have wondered off and the rest of the communion is trying to bring us back or are we sheep that have headed off to begin a new herd?
I have often heard the Church of England referred to as the “Mother Church” of the Anglican Communion, and one of its children is the Episcopal Church. If we look at the traditional role of a mother, it is like that of a Shepard in that she guides her children (sheep) through life to the point where they go out on their own. She protects her sheep as best as she can.
With what is going on in the Anglican Communion, is the Episcopal Church like many teenagers who think that they know everything and have rebelled against the mother church, or has the Episcopal Church grown into adulthood and mother is not ready to let her child go out into the world to live there own life?
Most parents do what they can to keep their child out of trouble and away from dangers, trying to keep their child from going through the same mistakes that they went through. Oh this is a great thing to do, but in some cases in order for a child to learn about things in life they need to make the same errors that their parents did in order to learn the same lesson. Parents tell kids not to do this or that because it is wrong, but fail to really explain why so that the child understands. People will say to kids not to use drugs, but will fail to tell kids that they used them at one point in life, and some of the things that they experienced as a result of using them.
But I am getting way off track on what my Bishop got me thinking about.
Being an Afro-Anglican in the Diocese of California is an interesting matter. In the diocese that I grew up in (The Diocese of Pennsylvania,) Black Episcopal clergy was a common thing to see. Don’t get me wrong, as they were in every congregation, but as a child it wasn’t that uncommon to come across one working not only in Black congregations, but in other congregations also. In this diocese we have black clergy in three congregations on a full time basis. Two of the clergy are priest, and the other is a Deacon. Now I know of five other black clergy in the diocese, two are retired, and at least one of the other two serves as an Interim.
Even though there are not many black youth within the diocese, sadly with the few Black Clergy in the diocese the black youth in this diocese really don’t see examples that becoming an ordained clergy person in this diocese as a viable option. This is also true of the Hispanic youth also.
This is a diocese that has only four Hispanic ministries, and not a single congregation with it’s own property. But when it comes to the Blacks within this diocese, we only have one that is looked upon as an Afrocentric congregation.
I am not 100% sure, but I believe that we have only five Asian congregations, with four of them with their own properties. Sadly though, like with the Blacks, they only have one Deacon of Asian ancestry, and I don’t think that we have a single Hispanic that is a Deacon.
The thing that each of the ethnic groups need to do is to become Sheppard's in getting the youth to realize that becoming a Clergy Person is a viable and fulfilling life that is worth considering. We as people of color need to show up at Ordination Services, welcome and show our support to the newly ordained that are of color. Yes we should show our support for ALL of the newly ordained, but with the small number of new ethnic seminarians in this country, we need to support them all.
I think that the only thing worse than the lack of people of color not becoming clergy is the major lack of people who happen to be physically handicap not being ordained. Even though we of color are handicapped because of our color, the fact that someone is in a wheelchair, or having to use crutches, or is blind, doesn’t mean that they can’t bring forth the Good News. How can we even call ourselves an inclusive church when we deny access to people because they need a bit of help because of physical problems? Now I know that not all churches are set up to be able to handle a wheelchair in the altar area, but as we build more and more churches, it is something that we can put into the plans.
But overall, spend some time thinking about how we as a Christians are Sheppard’s in the world? How can we as a denomination be Sheppard’s to the world? How can the congregation that you are in be a Sheppard to our surrounding community? How can you be a Sheppard to those in your life? Who has been a Sheppard to you?
“And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” - Mark 6:34