Sheep and Mutuality   1 comment


Above:  Shepherds, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06374


The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28

Psalm 32

Matthew 18:10-14


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34:

Matthew 18:


I will instruct you and teach you

in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

–Psalm 32:9, Common Worship (2000)


No one may come up with you, no one may be seen anywhere on this mountain; the flocks and herds may not even graze in front of this mountain.

–Exodus 34:3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


One of the perils of superficial familiarity with biblical texts is going on autopilot regarding them.

O yes, I know this passage,

we tell ourselves before we move along.  Yet we probably do not know these texts as well as we think we do.

Matthew 18:12-14 is such a text.  I knew that I was missing something, so I consulted my collection of commentaries.  They have informed me that these flocks were usually village flocks which a team of shepherds guarded.  Thus one shepherd could seek a lost sheep while his coworkers watched the others.  And each sheep was important.  Likewise, a sheep apart from the herd was in great danger.

This parable sits in the middle of teachings about communal life.  Immediately before the parable we read about welcoming children.  After the parable we learn about how to deal properly with errant members of the faith community.  In all three cases we read about what is best for the individual and the community.  But, as Matthew 18:17 tells us, the community must not allow the errant individual to danger it.

Communal life, with individual responsibilities to and for each other, constitutes one of the major concerns of the Law of Moses.  May we modern people not ignore this fact, despite the rugged individualism prevalent in the global Western tradition.  The individual cannot be healthy apart from the whole, which cannot be all that it can be without all of the members it should have.

Another point stands out in my mind.  As Moses collected the second set of tablets from God, not even flocks and herds were supposed to be in front of the mountain where he met with God.  The holy distance from sinful people–even from livestock–was very much a real issue.  By the time of Matthew 18, however, God, via the Incarnation, had closed that gap.  People ate with Jesus, anointed parts of him, and looked into his face.  And, as Hebrews 4:16 (assigned for yesterday) told us in the context of our Lord and Savior’s testing yet sinlessness:

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

So, confident in our great high priest, may we love each other actively and effectively, fulfilling our mutual responsibilities well.






Adapted from this post:


One response to “Sheep and Mutuality

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for the Seventh Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary) | LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS

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