Strange that most people delight in offering gifts, but do the same in return and the sorrowful response is, “You shouldn’t have.”
How does the shepherd most love the sheep? By leading us to graze in pastures we did not plant, hoof it down paths we did not cut, eat at tables we did not set, drink from cups we did not fill. By knowing his rams and ewes by name, by knowing that we are gullible and timid, scared and helpless, the livestock animals that require the most attention because we are creatures created to receive.
Hear the good news, we Christians are a sheepish people, wooly-faced, bandy-legged beasts wandering after the Good Shepherd who lays down his life to free us for joyful and obedient and absolute dependence. Dependent on the provisions we most desperately want but that only God can graciously provide.
Over one hundred years ago, so the story has been told, a thespian traveled this country doing shows to sold out audiences. He would perform vaudeville, offer impersonations, command word and rhyme. For the finale, the thespian would let a long silence linger before reciting the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” And the crowd always reacted the same with cheer and shout, a standing ovation every time.
At one stop on tour, a preacher made his way onto the stage. Just after the thespian finished his recital, the preacher walked into the spot light and grasped the microphone saying, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; leads beside still waters; he restores my soul…” Only this time, the crowd stopped applauding, sat down to weep, crying the tears of the Holy Spirit, encountering the God who provides and provides and provides. The thespian, confounded, said to the preacher, “any hack can make the people cheer but only the rare few can make them cry. How did you do that?” The preacher responded, “You know the Psalm; I know the Shepherd.”