On Sunday I told a story that integrates the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd with Jesus as Bread, Wine and the Body of Christ gathered around the feast.
The story begins with a group of sheep gathered in a sheepfold that’s placed on a green circle to my right. The Good Shepherd is there and he opens the gate to let the sheep out.
“My sheep know my voice. When I call, they follow me.”
The sheep follow the shepherd—out of the fold, over to another green circle placed to the left of the first circle and touching it. On this circle we have a table with a piece of bread on a small plate and a cup next to the bread.
The Shepherd leads the sheep “through green pastures, quiet waters and even through dark, dangerous places.” As the sheep follow the Shepherd from one spot to the next, they slowly, slowly, get closer, closer, closer to The Table where they will gather and share a meal, a meal that signifies danger.
Yet, strangely, this table is a very wonderful place. It is so wonderful that all kinds of people want to come here. There are people here of different colors, ages, sizes. There are even children here, big and small.
That is the basic outline of the story. There are other details, but I’m leaving those out because what happened next in our time together was more important to me and I want to share it with you now.
It amazes me that, after many years of telling this same story to different groups of people, there is still more, so much more to be discovered.
And, yes, the children led me to these discoveries. Here are some snippets of our wandering and wondering together…………
I pointed to the two circles. First, the circle on my right with the sheepfold. The gate was still open and there were no sheep in there. I asked, “I wonder what this place could really be?”
Then, I pointed to the circle with the table and I said, “And I wonder what this place could really be?”
Finally, I pointed to both circles at once, drawing a large circle to encompass both places. I asked, “I wonder what this whole place could really be?”
The children were captivated at first by the empty sheepfold. They said, “I think the sheepfold is church.”
I said, “Hm. Yes. That could be. Look: the gate is open. It was left open. I wonder if the gate in this place is left open more often than it is closed.”
“I think it’s left open most of the time.”
“But, then, the sheep can get out. That doesn’t seem safe.”
“Not if the shepherd is there by the gate. He is able to keep them safe.”
“Yes, that’s true. I wonder if the shepherd ever goes inside the gate. What do you think? Does he stay outside most of the time?”
“He calls the sheep out of the sheepfold and leads them to other places.”
“Yes. I wonder if being his sheep means he comes in to us or if it means he calls us out to him.”
“To be his sheep is to follow his voice. I suppose being his sheep is more about us being in him than him being in us.”
A boy—about four years old, I suppose. I have never met him. He is looking at the table with all the sheep and people gathered around and says, “It looks like a party.”
“Yes. Thank you for saying that! I had forgotten to tell one part of the story and you just reminded me of it: the Good Shepherd is so happy to be in this place he invites everyone to celebrate. So, all the people come. It is a party.”
“But, wait. This is a dangerous place. It means something dark happened. The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. I wonder how this place can be both a dark place and a happy place?”
We did not have ready answers to that question, but lots of silence, wonder.
PlayFull would love to introduce you to this kind of spiritual formation that’s good for both children and adults. It is story-based and involves lots of free wondering time. This kind of slow, improvisational conversation holds great power, like water smoothing stubborn rocks set in the riverbed. Write us if you’re curious!