Leaders & Shepherds (William Ball)

Leaders and shepherds come in all shapes and sizes.   Have you learned about one of our most recent heroes, Billy Martin?  Billy lives in Fort McMurray and owns a restaurant, Sweet Meats Sandwich Bar.   When the devastating blockage of ice in the Athabasca river caused the Clearwater river to flood into the lower townsite of Fort Mac, all kinds of people had to be evacuated.  Firefighters, police, first responders jumped into action.   Billy knew that he had to take action as well.  He knew that he could do something to help.  So, he went down to his restaurant, to make 20 sandwiches for those first responders.   Terrific!  A wonderful gesture!

But there were others who hungry and needed help – so he made 300 sandwiches for evacuees.  Wow!  That is really stepping forward in a generous way for his neighbours.  But even that wasn’t enough.  He knew that sandwiches alone would not sustain them.  So he reached out and asked for help from others; the result is that what started with a few sandwiches became stacks of donations from people all over Fort McMurray.

Billy Martin saw a need and stepped up.  He became a leader, a provider, a carer.  You could say that he became a shepherd for others when one was needed.

As I said, shepherds, leaders, come in all shapes and sizes; but you notice that he didn’t just stand around and tell people what to do.  He wasn’t that kind of leader.  He acted, he used the skills and resources that he possessed, and he served people.  As did many hundreds and thousands of other volunteers in Fort Mac.

We have seen all sorts of people do the same across this country – as a nation we’ve acknowledged the service of health care workers, care home workers, grocery clerks, cleaners and so many others who have kept life going for the rest of us.   We also heard of children who have used their own money to offer snacks and good food for those working in hospitals; we’ve seen children who have put up their drawings in the windows of their homes for others to see and admire; we’ve watched on youtube or facebook the many songs, parodies and amusing antics of those who just want to bring a smile to another persons’ face – to help all of us get through each day a little easier.

It has been said: sorrow that is shared is cut in half, but joy that is shared is doubled.  What a wonderful opportunity we have before us as we go through this particularly difficult time of the pandemic and economic challenge to lessen the burden that others carry, and to increase their sense of joy, thankfulness and solidarity.

When we help carry a burden for another person or share a joy or a laugh with them, we are living out the spirit of Jesus – himself the Good Shepherd – modeling a style of leadership which is responsive and sacrificial.

It is recorded in John’s gospel, ch. 10 that Jesus used the image of Shepherd to help us understand who he is and how he acts for our good.  Jesus showed us that shepherd/leader gets to know his sheep and they know the sound of his voice – trusting him, responding to his call.  The shepherd/leader acts as the gate of the sheepfold – lying with his body across the opening so that no predator gets in to ravage or steal the sheep.  The shepherd/leader leads the sheep out to good pasture so that the sheep will not just survive but will thrive – finding peace and wholeness and new life.

Jesus, our good Shepherd, came that we might have life – abundant life!  So that we might, in his name, might reflect his goodness in all that we say and do.

So, ask yourself: what are the ways that you have experienced the compassion, generosity and care of Jesus our Shepherd?   Take some time to count the ways in which you’ve been blessed by God.

  • If you do so, you’ll find that your burdens are lifted, and your joy is increased.
  • You’ll find that you are not alone, that there are many others who will care, who will step up and take action. Remember, we are the hands and feet of Christ.
  • Sometimes you will discover that such a person is you!  Responding with the compassion, generosity and care that is in your heart because of the love of God.

Where do you see people stepping up and taking action for the good of our community?  Name them.  Thank them.  Join them.

The Rev. William Ball
Millwoods Presbyterian Church, Edmonton