Sheep and shepherds are the theme in the readings today. They crop up a lot in the Bible as keeping sheep was a common occupation, which is perfectly understandable. Sheep give milk, wool, meat and leather. They are very good at finding enough to eat in quite rough terrain. They are a very useful animal for a family to keep. They continue to be very useful to us now.
For city dwellers, it’s hard to connect with rural images, unless they have grown up or spent holidays in the countryside. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small market town. I could see fields from the windows of our house and used to love watching for the first lambs to appear. My mother’s family were all farmers and so I had opportunities to visit farms. I also saw sheepdog trials. These are competitions where a farmer and his sheepdog have to complete some tasks with a group of sheep which they haven’t worked with before. I was always fascinated by the way the dog would lie low in the grass and then move in response to various whistles from the farmer. The dog could round up the sheep in a bunch and drive them into a small pen, usually with a little help from the farmer. Often at least one sheep would have other ideas and decide to try to go in the wrong direction but, in the end, all would be collected up and placed in the pen. It was amazing how man and dog could work so well together, understanding one another and achieving a task even if the sheep were uncooperative. Continue reading