It is a tradition that our Minister writes a letter every month which is printed in our magazine, "The Messenger". Here is the current letter from John and Liz Rowe.
If, like me, your upbringing was in an urban setting then the image of a shepherd is not likely to have been a familiar one. Indeed I cannot recall ever encountering a "scouse" shepherd, they simply did not loom large in my experience!
Such was not the case where Jesus was concerned, for the image of a shepherd was very much part of his heritage and culture. We remember that Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks, Moses tended the flocks of his father-in-law, and David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel. When the prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah he worded it by saying: "He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms." Then there is, of course, the wonderful 23rd Psalm, which is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters." The tradition of the shepherd was then very much a part of the culture and heritage of Jesus.
The image of a shepherd, we Christians know, is also very much part of the culture and heritage of the New Testament. Jesus once told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep but one of them went astray, so the shepherd left the 99 to go in search of that one lost sheep. Later, when Jesus was speaking to a great throng of people, Mark tells us that he had compassion upon them because they were "as sheep without a shepherd." (Mark 6:34)
Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith then, the image of the shepherd has been stamped upon the thinking of God's people. Jesus, notably, taps into this imagery when he refers to himself in John's Gospel as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
Among so many scriptural shepherd images, followers of Jesus do well to remember that we have a shepherd who is genuine. How do we know that? Well, because this shepherd is the one who comes seeking all those who have gone astray and has compassion for their situation. He knows each of them and loves them to such a degree that he willingly lays down his own life for them.
Sheep tending shepherds were in short supply in the industrialised Liverpool of my youth, as they may have been in yours. The important thing for you and I to remember and give thanks for however, is that the Good Shepherd found us and that his love for each of us will ensure that in the trials and tribulations of life we shall not be left in want.
With every blessing.