Sweat rivulets streaked Paul’s dusty face; salty drops spattered the ground. He tottered as greedy animals shoved him. The stench of grimy, matted wool stung his nostrils
”Feed my lambs.”
He desperately thrust his hands into a barrel of mush and scooped out a handful. Slimy meal ran through his fingers. He dribbled a scant amount into a toppled sieve at his feet, but it was swallowed by cracked earth.
”Tend my sheep.”
“I’m trying!” Paul repeatedly filled his cupped hands attempting to nourish the boisterous, bleating, animals.
”Feed my sheep.”
“Lord, show me the way!”
Paul sprang from sleep; his heart was racing. Those faded blue overalls, the heat, slimy mush on my hands, anxiety, disappointment. All so vivid – so real.
He raked through his tousled hair and rubbed his face. My sermon this morning had to cause this dream. Lord, am I not feeding your sheep?
Mary’s palm fell gently on her husband’s leg as the organist’s notes faded. “Paul? Shouldn’t you be...?”
“Oh, thanks, hon.” The worship hymns had been merely background for his meditation.
They’re lukewarm, as usual. “Ahem. GOOD MORNING!”
“Ah, much better. I thought maybe you didn’t agree with me.” Paul was glad the giggles and titters had the desired affect. The parishioners stirred, and sat a bit straighter.
He made announcements, then led them through the offering, wondering all the while, Am I not feeding His sheep?
Paul sat with his family in the front pew as the choir began a hymn. His dream echoed in his thoughts. God, am I feeding your sheep?
”Feed your sheep.”
The Spirit’s message was clear to Paul, but it also puzzled him. Lord, they are your sheep.
”You are their shepherd.”
Yes. My flock. Paul appraised his parishioners. Gilbert’s chin dropped to his chest. Mr. Cowan scolded his son. Abe scribbled in a notebook. Sara rummaged through her purse. The Pastor’s face fell when he realized how few of them were actually worshipping.
”Feed my sheep.”
Paul sat bolt upright and his brow unfurled. With a glance at his watch, he leaned toward his wife. “Mary, I need a favor.” Instructions were softly given.
Mary raised a brow, but his look said, “Trust me,” and he shooed her out.
When choir’s timbre was a glimmer in the air, Paul bounded to the pulpit. “Folks, let’s sing that chorus! Lift it to God! Janet?” He turned to the organist with his “trust me” look. She shrugged at the choir director. They knew - stall for time. Paul’s voice boomed, and the congregation was inspired to join.
Paul preached at length before communion. After his “Amen,” the ushers let out a sigh. He winked at them and whispered, “Take your time.”
He hunched over in the pew and sighed. ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Tell me if I’ve got this right. Tell me if I don’t. Please shepherd me as I feed these sheep You’ve entrusted to my care. Mary slipped into the pew beside him as he prayed, and gently set a white bag by his feet.
“Well, folks, I had planned to preach from John 21:15-17 about the responsibilities of a good pastor. But then ... I had this humbling dream.
“Oh, and you might be wondering about this bag. Yes, I did have Mary get breakfast.”
Paul grinned at Mary standing ready by the door. At her signal, a score of teenagers bearing white bags streamed into the sanctuary, and proffered their goods at the ends of the pews.
“Ok, everybody, take one and pass it down.” Paul crossed to the choir with his bag.
He grinned with delight as Celia peered over the edge and cooed. “Muffins!”
Paul almost scampered back to the pulpit. “Eat, eat, while breakfast is hot. But let me tell you about my dream. See, I was a farmer.” More laughter erupted. Paul had the interest of his flock.
By the time Paul finished his animated reenactment, he had their full attention. “Now, I had good food, but the sheep got no nourishment. I couldn’t transfer the food. On top of that, there was no sturdy bowl to hold it.
“A good shepherd not only provides food for his sheep, he makes sure they eat and digest.
“First, he comes prepared, then he ensures there’s a proper vessel for food.
“This week, I’ll be preparing for a new sermon series. Next Sunday’s message will be “The Noble Vessel.”
John 21:15-17, RSV
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
2 Timothy 2:21, RSV
If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house,
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