Important distinction: attributes of the good shepherd with that of the hired hand. A good shepherd is willing to give up his own life to protect the sheep in his care. A hired man is willing to give up the sheep in order to protect himself.
Sometimes we can read these words as reassuring. When I am in trouble, Christ was protect me. Surely, the first Christian communities would have needed such reassurance.
But, we can also read them as prescriptive. We who are the body of Christ, we who are the church, have in our care many who need protection. Or, we should have them in our care.
Look around you. How are the sheep doing in your town? When trouble comes to them, do you run toward them or away?
Another distinction--that may not be important: sheep in my fold and sheep that do not belong to my fold. Who are the other sheep? Do you consider them to be the responsibility of your congregation?
God of miracles, you are continually working wonders! We are amazed by your extravagant love and kindness. You invite us be mindful of everything that you have provided. Free us from worrying about what we do not have. Open our eyes to recognize your children who are in need. May these gifts bountifully bless those in our community, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen. (John 6:1-21)
July Offertory Prayers were written by the Rev.Rosanna Anderson, Associate Director of Stewardship at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.