I’ve been asked by Covenant Fellowship Scotland to give some reflections during a time of change. I’m currently in the process of moving from being the minister of Inverness Kinmylies Church to Wick Pulteneytown and Thrumster Church.
In terms of our lives, this means quite an upheaval for Susan and me. We don’t really know anyone in Caithness and really have little experience of the area. It means leaving Inverness which is a place that we love, with people and a church we love. It means losing many of the familiarities of life.
Moving means there has been a lot to do. We are preparing to move house and all the organisational tasks associated with that. I have been spending some time handing over some things to the elders and our church worker, and also trying to spend time with the more vulnerable members of the congregation before I leave. With all of this comes a sense of sadness in leaving and of leaving things unfinished. There are people whose faith I have seen growing and those who I would love to go further in the pilgrimage of faith with. There are people facing ongoing struggles and crises who it is hard to leave behind. There are new initiatives about to start in the church which I sadly won’t get to be a part of.
However, in all of this, there has been an aspect of God’s care which has helped me greatly in these last weeks, which is relevant to both churches and which might encourage you; God’s shepherding.
In Psalm 23, David – a shepherd in his youth – outlines his experience of God’s shepherding. It is included in the psalter so that God’s people throughout all generations might give praise to God by giving voice to their experience of this too.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
The author Phillip Keller was a shepherd and he wrote some reflections on Psalm 23. He noted how, as a shepherd, getting sheep to lie down was actually a very hard thing to do. For sheep to lie down four things must be achieved:
- There needs to be no friction among the flock
- They need to not have any fear
- They need to not feel any sense of pestering from flies or parasites
- They need to be well fed (a quote found in Psalms Vol.1, Boice, Baker)
To me, this is quite an amazing level of care. For these things to be present the shepherd must know his sheep intimately, and be committed to a very high level of care, both in the big needs such as fear from predators and the small nuisances such as flies.
Jesus our good shepherd is like this. We see this ultimately in the cross where He, at great cost, shows His commitment to His people as He stood in our place, paying the price for our greatest need. In His life though, we see that this care for, and knowledge of, His people is not just a single act, but a loving commitment in obedience to the Father. He is now in heaven, interceding for His people, giving grace in time of need.
Like David, being shepherded to lie down has been my experience over these last months.
Jesus’s knowledge, care and leading have been very helpful to me in these last weeks and I trust will continue to be as we move.
Because I know that Jesus knows me and Susan and knows our needs more than even we do, I can look to Him to help me through each day, with each item on my (seemingly never-ending) to-do list, and to finish well here in Kinmylies.
It also helps me to know that He, the good shepherd, knows and cares for the people of Kinmylies Church more than I ever have or will and that I can let go of my responsibility by entrusting them to His care. In the same way, He is the shepherd of the folks in Pulteneytown and Thrumster and so as I prepare to be under-shepherd among them, He is the one I want to point them to in my ministry there.
Perhaps you face things in your life, big or small, which make it difficult for you to “lie down”. Come again to Christ, who is the good shepherd. He knows you, He knows your needs. He is willing and able to bring His care into your life in such a way that you, like David, can know that “He makes me lie down”.