Preaching on the eve of Earth Day on the readings about Christ the shepherd, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori focused her sermon at Washington National Cathedral on “holy shepherding.”
That great dream of Revelation is an image of the flock of humanity gathered around their shepherd. Their wool is clean and white, not just because they’ve had a dip in the creek to wash the dirt off, but because all the burrs and thorns and parasites have been picked out. It’s immensely troublesome work to get a sheep looking like that – it’s not just a matter of a bath. And this isn’t just a single animal, like a country fair champion. An entire flock of sheep has been individually groomed until they reflect the sun like the top of a cloudbank. This great good shepherd cares for each part of creation as precious – beloved, even. These sheep are gathered, confident that one of their number will keep them in good grazing, and clean water, and away from the wolves. The lamb has become shepherd of all by shifting his concern from self to the whole. It is a cosmic image of the ancient challenge to care for the whole community rather than only one’s individual being.
That’s the kind of shepherding we’re in for – recognizing the preciousness of the whole flock of creation. Not just the human ones, or the mammals, or the local pasture, but the vast web of interconnected matter we call creation. Every family, language, tribe, and nation of insect, woodland, coral reef, water vapor, and the rock below. Why do you suppose those sheep are waving palm branches? This cosmic act of salvation is about all creation, not simply a few human beings.