One Lord, One Shepherd, One Flock, One Church

The Good Shepherd

Our Lord Jesus Christ is THE Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14) – all Christians, including priests and bishops always are sheep in His flock. (Even when Christ tells the Apostle Peter, “Feed my sheep” in John 21:15-19, note the sheep are still Christ’s, not Peter’s. Peter is serving both Christ and Christ’s flock in feeding the flock). We never lose that status as sheep in HIS flock, even if we are called to be shepherds and overseers. It is part of the mystery of this “upside down” Kingdom in which the first are last and the greatest as the youngest – we are to have shepherds who are themselves sheep, but never wolves. Or, conversely, we are to have sheep who also work as shepherds (and we are warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing). 

Jesus said, “So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16) 

The hierarchical claims of the church sometimes lose sight of Christ’s commands that we are to be brothers one to another, not lords and masters over and against each other (see Matthew 23:1-12, also Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 10:35-44, Luke 22:24-30). Jesus rebuked the disciples when they argued about who was the greatest or talked about who was to sit at his right and left hand and reminded them He came as one who serves, and that is to the nature of those who wish to be in His Kingdom, and to be the attitude of His disciples. 

Christ the Physician came to call the sick and sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).  Bishops like every Christian are among the sinners called by Christ to repent of their sins, and who spend the remaining time of their lives in repentance.   Bishops are not chosen from the righteous who have no need of repentance (Matthew 9:13).  Bishops too are Christ’s disciples who needed salvation and are saved from sin and death by Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection.

Our Tradition embraced hierarchical ideas, many which came from the Roman world, but now we have to figure out how to reconcile those statements to the Gospel commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

He alone is the good shepherd. He alone is the head of the church, which is His Body. Bishops are not “head” in or over the church – Christ alone is the head of the Body. Bishops are sheep like the rest of us, and members of the Body of Christ, exactly like we each are and to the same extent: the bishops are neither more or less members of the Body than any other baptized Christian. The bishops are not in the body like the pigs in ANIMAL FARM where all animals were equal, but some more equal than others.   The Church is part of the Kingdom of love, not a utopia turned dystopian. 

The eye has need of the hand

All Christians are equal members of the Body of Christ, though we serve different functions with some being hands, feet, eyes, ears, etc.  In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, St. Paul sees each of us and all of us as Christians being members of the Body. We are different (as say the foot from the hand), but no body part rules over any other body part. The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of you,’ says Paul. We can substitute ‘the bishop’ for “the eye” to get the sense of St. Paul’s comment: The bishop cannot say to the lay person, ‘I have no need for you.’  The bishops do not represent membership in the Body of Christ in some way different from or superior to the other clergy or the laity. 

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:24-25 writes:   “God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.”

Living at Peace with God

Finding the hidden stairway

“Be peaceful within yourself, and heaven and earth will be at peace with you. Be diligent to enter into the treasury that is within you, and you will see the treasury of Heaven:  for these are one and the same, and with one entry you will behold them both. The ladder of the Kingdom is within you, hidden in your soul. Plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you will find steps by which you will be able to ascend.  …   A zealous man never achieves peace of mind. But he who is a stranger to peace is a stranger to joy. If, as it is said, peace of mind is perfect health, and zeal is opposed to peace, then the man who has a wrong zeal is ill with a grievous disease.  …   If you wish to heal the infirm, know that the sick are in greater need of loving care than of rebuke.  …  Zeal is not reckoned among men to be a form of wisdom, but as one of the illnesses of the soul, namely narrow-mindedness and deep ignorance. The beginning of divine wisdom is clemency and gentleness, which arise from greatness of soul and the bearing of the infirmities of men.”      (The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, pgs 11, 243)