The Herding of Cats, Cows, and Sheep
If you had the chance to herd cats, cows, or sheep, which one would you want to herd?
Of course, you may have heard the adage that trying to get three year olds to head in same direction is like "herding cats." Perhaps, you have heard it said trying to get church folk to head in the same direction is also like "herding cats. As well, trying to get pastors on a short break between sessions at an event to come back on time, is like...herding cats.
It seems everyone is going every which way with no destination in site. And let's be honest, we could substitute any of a number of different groups in there and the result would still be the same — everyone is heading in a different direction with no destination in site.
What about herding sheep? How easy do you think that would be? And what about herding cattle on the back of a horse, sounds like a great "gig!" Perhaps, we are fortunate that Jesus never mentions herding cats or cattle.
I appreciate the way that Barbara Brown Taylor shares about the benefit of herding sheep over cattle (and cats) when she writes:
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered last Tuesday that someone I know actually grew up on a sheep farm in the Midwest and that according to him sheep are not dumb at all. It is the cattle ranchers who are responsible for spreading that ugly rumor, and all because sheep do not behave like cows.
Cows are herded from the rear by hooting cowboys with cracking whips, but that will not work with sheep at all. Stand behind them making loud noises and all they will do is run around behind you, because they prefer to be led.
You push cows, but you lead sheep, and they will not go anywhere that someone else does not go first. Their shepherd who goes ahead of them to show them that everything is all right.
— Barbara Brown Taylor, The Preaching Life (Rowman & Littlefield, 1993), 146
Our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has always gone ahead of his "flock" and shows us everything will be all right. From Peter and the other disciples, to Ananias and Saul (later named Paul) and to the present, Jesus knows the path and knows everything will be okay. That is why I am always fond of saying, "I don't want to get out in front of Jesus because I know I will probably wander off the path I should be going."
The good news for each of us is that Jesus is there calling us by name to step outside our comfort zones and journey with him as the disruptive love of God. This past Sunday I shared several stories from those who know the benefit of seeing the pathway of their lives through the Resurrection love God has bestowed on all of creation. They understand the kind of disruptive love that moves one off the "beaten path" of complacency and the known. They also know the power in the promise of Jesus walking with us even on the "unknown paths" of anxiety and fear.
As we study Jesus' invitation to Peter and us to "feed the lambs and tend the sheep, and as we share in communion, we are called to embody the love Jesus embodied. As well, as we study the "conversion" experience of Paul, we are called, as he was, to be the embodiment of the good news. Hope to see you Sunday!