Finding God in the everyday
By The Rev. Larry Hallett, Kenwood Community Church
On the common ground in Oakmont between Stone Bridge and Meadowbrook, there is a large open area. The wild grass grows well there and quickly becomes dry and brown by early summer. To reduce the risk of fire danger, the Oakmont Community has taken to hiring a sheepherder to bring his flock of 200 sheep to graze the hillside. It’s more efficient than a weed eater, and a tractor cannot handle the slope of the hillside. Plus, we can enjoy a bit more of nature as we gaze upon these wonderful creatures just doing what God intended them to do.
My partner and I went walking along the trail that bisects the hillside, in the cool of the evening, looking for the sheep, as some church members who live at the top of the ridge told me that we just had to see them. And sure enough, there they were…all 200 of them, munching for all they were worth. There were sheep of all shapes and sizes: big, small, some mothers with babies, some with bulky coats, some with very little coat at all. It was a rag-tag grouping, to be sure, but magnificent in its own right. The sheepherder had them nicely contained with some simple but effective electrified fencing. The electrical charge is not enough to hurt you, but prickly enough to get your attention. It certainly worked to keep the sheep in.
The sheep pretty well ignored me, despite my efforts at getting their attention. They did not respond to my calling, my whistles, my attempts at bleating, even my offering of a small branch plucked from a tree to entice them with something other than grass to eat. At the far end of their encampment, we noticed that one small, lone sheep had somehow managed to escape the pen –not sure how that happened – but it was free to roam all by itself in the next enclosure.
The sheepherder’s travel-trailer was parked down the hill next to the community garden, so we walked down to the trailer to notify him of the situation. He was a diminutive man, Spanish-speaking only, but had a kind face and a warm smile. I managed to convey in very broken Spanish and a lot of gesturing that an animal had escaped. He nodded, jumped on his small tractor, and chugged up the hill. We then continued walking on the main street, heading home. As we passed some of the homes at the bottom of the hill below the ridge, we could hear the noise level of the sheep escalating. They were certainly getting more animated. There was suddenly much more activity among them, and we could see up the hill between the houses that they were all moving toward the end of their pen. And we realized that all this sudden motion and cacophony was due to the arrival of the shepherd.
All this brings to mind the 23rd Psalm and the relationship that we have with our own Good Shepherd. It also connects with those scriptures where Jesus talks about how the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and respond. Or the parable where Jesus states, “what shepherd with a hundred sheep, who lost one, would not leave the ninety-nine safely in the fold and go in search of that one lost sheep?” I saw it happen with my own eyes. And I am resolute in my appreciation for God’s gentle leading, as well, of the flock of which we are a part.
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