I hear I have acquired a reputation for being rather anti-clerical. Well
. . . that depends on how you look at it. I'm one of those old buck sheep
who have become a little suspicious of shepherds. I've seen them come, and
I've seen them go, and I've seen good ones and bad ones, so I don't just
run bleating after every human shepherd who comes over the hill.
I know shepherds live off their flocks--and that's Okay as long as they take care of the sheep. I don't mind being sheared, but I don't like to be fleeced. And, although I have seen some wolves in sheep's clothing, I have also seen some wolves in shepherds' clothing. They did terrible things to their sheep--or at least to those who did not escape from that pasture.
On the other hand, I've met a number of shepherds who love their Master enough to feed His sheep. They actually fed us, and comforted us, and earned our trust. I remember two shepherds who spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies--they were called "chaplains." And I have known shepherds who were more than hirelings--shepherds who I believe would lay down their lives for their sheep. I shall never forget them.
So I'm not against shepherds; I just don't care what kind of papers they have in their pockets. I'm not persuaded by any shepherds' union, or professional society, or hierarchy that tries to tell me who I should follow. I intend to go on looking at shepherds one by one; I intend to go on deciding who is and is not a good shepherd according to what they actually do with their sheep; and I intend to have some say about where I will and will not follow any human being. If these natural instincts of a stubborn old buck sheep are considered anti-clerical, so be it.
Originally presented to a session entitled The Elder and the Ordained Minister (Friends or Foes?) at a regional retreat for Elders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Published in The Disciple magazine, 5 October 1981.