Friday, September 12, 2014

Shepherd, show me how to go ...

As some of you may know, I was raised in the Christian Science Church, as was my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. As a teenager I witnessed the conversion of my mother when she decided to place her trust in Jesus Christ and no longer in the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy.

In the autumn of 1974, I began to attend a Christian coffee house near where we lived in San Diego and met more people whose lives had been transformed through a personal relationship with Jesus. Such things I had never experienced as a Christian Scientist, though my favorite hymn in the Christian Science Church spoke of a shepherd, a shepherd who was nameless. 

Shepherd, show me how to go
O’er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow,
How to feed Thy sheep.
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way.

Thou wilt bind the stubborn will,
Wound the callous breast,
Make self righteousness be still,
Break earth’s stupid rest.
Strangers on a barren shore,
Laboring long and lone,
We would enter by the door,
And Thou knowest Thine own.

So, when day grows dark and cold,
Tear or triumph harms,
Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,
Take them in Thine arms.
Feed the hungry, heal the heart,
Till the morning’s beam;
White as wool, ’ere they depart,
Shepherd, wash them clean.

Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science Hymnal #304, 1887

It is very much a Christian Science hymn because the emphasis is on the shepherd as the "Way-Shower," and not as The Way, our Redeemer, our Lord. 

Even today in Christian circles, we are sometimes taught that Jesus is an example, but it is overlooked that he is our redeemer. It is difficult to see him as a redeemer, if we do not know we are in slavery, in prison, lost.  It is not that he shows us the bread of life, to feed the hungry, heal the heart.  It is that He is the Bread of Life.  

I did not know I was lost until I was found.

The cross is hidden, missing from those teachings and so is missing from our lives—as it is still missing from every Christian Science Church (and its descendants) across the globe. 

Jesus is very clear when he teaches what it means to "follow" him.  It’s not just that he shows us the the way to go, it is that he is the Way.

And what does he actually say? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) 

Deny myself, take up my cross, and follow him.The cross— we are to pick up our cross?  I have a cross?

Are we not just to follow, but to pick up our own cross and follow? Are we to walk the road of suffering just as He did?  That part, the picking up the cross part, was missing from my life as a Christian Scientist.

Now when I hear Shepherd Show Me How To Go, I long for the missing verses. Where does the Shepherd go but to the cross? And how do I carry my own?

Jesus the Shepherd does not just feed His sheep, He lays down His life for His sheep. He is not only the Shepherd, but He is also the Lamb, the shepherd who became a lamb, one of us. 

The surprise about it all is that the cross, where the “Lamb of God” suffered and died looked and felt like a failure to those who followed Him. Most ran away.  It wasn't even enough for Jesus to merely follow on His own, but to do the will of His Father. And so He went to the Cross. 

Reading through the stanzas again of a song I still have memorized from babyhood, I see that imagery is meant to comfort, but it is distorted.  We are not washed in the morning beam, we are washed in the Blood of Christ, an image that reminds us of His sacrifice. By His wounds, we are told, we are healed.

So what is the new song?  What hymn is there to redeem this song of my childhood, to teach me how to carry my cross and follow Jesus?  

In the early hours of my own conversion in that coffee house in San Diego I heard a song.  This hymn recalls some of the thoughts of that song of my childhood—oh but the good news, the Good News of Jesus, my Shepherd, my Redeemer, my Lord.

To pick up the cross and follow Jesus, even though it may, no, it will be a path of suffering, is redeemed because Jesus is risen.  We do not follow a nameless Shepherd, but the Risen Jesus, who saves us, redeems us and fill us with the Holy Spirit. That is how pick our cross and follow him.

The cross, that looked like a failure is a reminder that we are loved.  When we pick up our cross we are reminded of the amazing love of Jesus. When we pick our cross and follow him, we are free.


Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Charles Wesley, "Hymns for those that Seek, and those that Have Redemption," 1747


Unknown said...

Dear BB,
This is a tender and touching personal testimony. Thanks for sharing.

Northwest Bob

Unknown said...

Thank you, Northwest Bob.