Scripture repeatedly likens humans to sheep. We are sheep, easily going astray, turning to our own way, and lost. Again Scripture likens God to a shepherd. He searches, finds, feeds and takes care of his flock. He gives them bountiful, rich pasture on which to feed and freely roam. And he protects them from wolves and all dangers. He gently carries the young close to his heart.
Scripture also speaks of human shepherds that God sets apart to do the work of overseeing God's people. Of course in this analogy, God continues to be the Chief Shepherd. The people so designated are called "under shepherds". They serve under the great and good Shepherd.
Jesus came fulfilling God's role as Shepherd of his people. Jesus as the good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He is the gate, by which they enter in to God's blessing. He provides to them rich, full life.
On this St. Patrick's Day of 2006, to read the life of St. Patrick is to read the life of a true shepherd. His was a life of love and zeal to find lost sheep and bring them into God's abundance. And he put his life at risk, in doing so. But God answered. God shepherded St. Patrick through it all and by that enabled him to shepherd others. Many in Ireland came to put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Thus was born one of the greatest and most creative forms of Christianity: Celtic. Flourishing for centuries. In love with God as Creator, Redeemer and Friend.
God. Thank you for your faithful and good Shepherding of us, your people. Let us stay close to you and to each other, as your flock. And let us see your flock extended more and more, into lands and peoples who don't know you yet, as the great and good Shepherd. Raise up more to follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. Give us the spirit and heart of St. Patrick. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.