Sunday, October 18, 2015

Feed the Sheep Around You

I was going to substitute in Relief Society and teach chapter 20 in the President Ezra Taft Benson manual (from the Presidents of the Church manuals) entitled "Feed My Sheep". I had read and pondered the lesson, then prepared it. Then I got word that I wasn't going to be teaching it after all so I decided to share some of my thoughts from the chapter with my missionary son and with all of you (my oh-so-big blog reading crowd) here.

My first thought when I hear "Feed My Sheep" is of missionary work, to teach those who haven't heard the gospel, but President Benson spoke of helping the members who are less active and those in need. That makes sense of course and the chapter mentions Matthew 18:12-13, which speaks of the sheep who has strayed.

12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

Taking care of the less active (or totally inactive) is an important work and it must start with love. If our friends, family or neighbors who we are praying for do not feel our love, any effort will be in vain. Of course, we all can choose whether we want to be at church or not, but people are more likely to want to be at church if they feel loved there.

I was lucky enough recently to run into a sheepherder and his sheep while on a ride with my sister and I got to snap some sheep photos that I could use in this post. (And the sheepherder let us take photos on his horse.) This sheep wears a bell because he likes to wander away from the others. If only it were that easy with people, to hear a bell ringing when they are starting to wander away, whatever their reasons. We need to be aware of others and be willing to call or go visit those who haven't been coming. Many people stop going to church because no one notices or cares if they aren't there, or that's what their perception is.

It is not easy or quick to bring most people back to the fold. Like the expression says, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." So it would be better if we all did our part to make sure that everyone feels loved by our Heavenly Father and by us. In that second pic, it's easy to spot the "black sheep", the one who is different. It's not always easy to spot the one in our ward who may need our friendship or help. But Heavenly Father knows and He will guide us through the Spirit if we are asking and willing to follow the Spirit. He not only knows who needs something, but what they need. Many of us are apprehensive about offering help, thinking we may not know what to say or do, but we can be lead by the Spirit. And doing anything is better than doing nothing.

In the most traumatic time of my life, my ward family was not there. Everyone knew of my situation, yet I did not have home teaching or visiting teaching visits, no phone calls or invitations for dinner, nothing. Luckily, I do not go to church for social reasons. I go to church to be fed and uplifted by the Spirit, to renew my covenants with my Father, and especially during that time, to gain strength and power from the sacrament. Some people, however, would stop going to church when left alone. How many have left because no one talked to them, sat next to them or included them? All of us who have been baptized have promised to bear one another's burden and that takes time and effort, but it doesn't take a lot of time or effort. We can just be a sincere, caring friend.

As Pres. Eyring said in his October 1997 address "Feed My Sheep", "The Lord through His living prophet has told us that He will preserve the bounteous harvest of new converts entering the waters of baptism across the earth. And the Lord will do it through us. So we can have confidence that by doing simple things, things that even a child can do, we will be granted soon greater power to nourish tender faith."

There is an allegory that is often attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok. The rabbi visited hell and there were pots of delicious soup, enough for everyone. Each person had a long-handled spoon attached to his arm, if you can imagine that. Even though there was so much food, everyone was starving, being unable to get the soup in their spoon at the end of their arm up to their mouths. When the rabbi went to visit heaven, he saw the same pots of soup and the same long-handled spoons attached to their arms, only there, everyone was happy and had eaten well. The rabbi asked the angel how this could be and the angel dipped his spoon into the soup and fed the man across the table from him. "Here in heaven we feed each other."

I especially liked this description by President Benson that is in the chapter.

"At night, the shepherds would lead their sheep to a corral or sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of the walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over. Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening and threatening them.

"Such a situation separated the true shepherd- one who loved his sheep- from the hireling who worked only for pay out of duty. The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in among the sheep and fight for their welfare. "  

It brings tears to my eyes to picture my Savior fighting my fight with me, never leaving me alone. I know that none of us wants to feel alone and it is up to each of us to help others feel loved and to help them feel the Spirit in their lives. I have done a few things this past week to try to show love for others and I have felt some things that I can do this week. I should not be happy until I have done all that I have felt prompted to do.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something. 

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful lesson Valerie. I love your real photos of the sheep.
    It was a good lesson. You made it tender and meaningful.

    Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful insight. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautiful insight. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete

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