Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

John 10:11-18

Paul said that Christians must be in, but not of, the world. Some Christians have taken that to mean we should be detached from the world, and frankly, I think this is a bad idea.

In the parable of the good shepherd, the shepherd has a vested interest in maintaining the well-being of his flock, because he owns the flock. The hireling, in contrast, doesn't have an ownership stake in the flock.

The Church is a shepherd to the world. We are called to use our moral standing, our human, financial and other resources for the sake of the world. We are called to participate in leading this world to a more just future - perhaps even to the kingdom of God, where the lion can lie in peace with the lamb.

We are not like the executives of a corporation, so it's inappropriate to talk of an ownership stake in the world. We should think of ourselves more as the governing board of a nonprofit. Ideally, a nonprofit's board has representation from all the communities it serves. That way, the organization will (ideally) take into the consideration of the needs of all stakeholders. It will have a direct stake in the well-being of the community it serves.

Clearly God took this concept of stewardship to its ultimate end - God became incarnate in the person of Jesus. God did not come as a Roman, as a member of a conquering empire. God came as one of the victims of empire.

Some in the Church, such as Oscar Romero, have chosen to be martyred for living out the Gospel among the most vulnerable. Most of us aren't brave enough to do that. But we can build our Church to include the poor, people of color, indigenous people, women, people with disabilities and others in our governance.

In the past, we've excluded people. When we exclude a group of people from possibly participating in our governance and then try to serve them, we will probably end up colonizing them instead.

In this age, good steward means representation. Without representation, the Church will be unable - as opposed to merely unwilling - to take into account the needs of all people.

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