The driver parked his car, plugged his microscopic cell phone into a laptop and briskly surfed to a GPS satellite navigation system on the Internet and initiated a remote body-heat scan of the area. While the computer was occupied, he sent some e-mail via his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, nodded solemnly at the responses. Finally, he printed a 150 page report on the little laser printer in his glove compartment, turned to the shepherd, waving the sheaves of paper, and pronounced “You have exactly 1,586 sheep." "Impressive. One of my sheep is yours." said the shepherd.
He watched the young man select an animal and bundle it into his car. Then the shepherd said: "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?" Pleased to meet a fellow sportsman, the young man replied “You’re on.” "You are a consultant." said the shepherd without hesitation. "That's correct," said the young man, impressed. "How ever did you guess?" "It wasn’t a guess," replied the shepherd. "You drive into my field uninvited. You ask me to pay you for information I already know, answer questions I haven’t asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog." (Author Unknown)
Sheep definitely have not changed, but the shepherds have changed quite a bit. At the time of Jesus, shepherds were not considered good. In fact, it was just the opposite. They were known to be dirty, thieves, and were forbidden by Jewish law from being witnesses in any trial because they were flagrant liars. So why would Jesus call himself a “Shepherd” and a “Good” one at that?
Well, isn’t this Jesus’ usual style of inviting the listener to go beyond “the box”? For with Jesus, there was no box. He turned the world upside down and inside out; he crossed boundaries and borders of rules, regulations, and traditions that bound the spirits of the eager of heart. He was a presence that disturbed the religious and political worlds. He lived on the edge and the margins of society and ministered to those who would be found there. He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; challenged people to become light and salt, and told them to forgive their enemies. He also could speak to the wind and the waves; he cast out demons, and gave sight to the blind.
So who are the Good Shepherds of today? We are all called to be shepherds of our world today – to care for creation, to be voices for the poor, the marginalized – "the least, the last, and the lost." We, as shepherds. need to be willing to confront the systems that keep humanity and creation defenseless and vulnerable. Here are a few of today’s shepherds who are willing to “smell like sheep.”