By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (John 10:1-10), we find our guy talking sheep. This seems to be Jesus’ favorite metaphor, referring to his followers as sheep.
Traditionally, of course, this passage has been read as yet another criticism of other religions. Tradition tells us that it’s only Jesus who can lead us through the gate of heaven and anyone who says Buddha, the millions of Hindu gods, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster can bring you enlightenment is nothing but a thief and a bandit.
Reading the passage that way, however, robs it of its deeper power. This passage isn’t one touting Jesus’ spiritual supremacy – instead, it’s a pretty good primer on how to be an anam cara to everyone we meet in this world.
The image of sheep that Jesus likes to invoke is actually a fairly decent metaphor to describe people. Since few of us live on farms, or may have even grown up on a farm, a petting zoo is as probably as close as we get to a sheep these days. And, when you get near one, you realize, fairly quickly that they’re filthy, stinking animals. They are generally covered in mud and their own waste.
If you can get past that, you’ll probably notice that sheep aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. They usually put themselves in unnecessary danger, simply because they are either suicidal or stupid. Either way, they don’t look out for themselves very well, but they are very adept at following, and they will follow the sheep in front of them no matter where it goes, even if it goes over a cliff.
Sheep also don’t see very well – they have poor depth perception – which is why they need a shepherd to help them find the gate, to poke and prod them so they can get in and out of the pen.
In short, Jesus says, people are a lot like sheep. When you get close to them, it becomes apparent that the clean outside mask they show to the world hides some fairly dirty secrets on the inside and for all our schoolin’ and degrees and things, we’re generally not the smartest animals on the planet. We put ourselves in unnecessary danger all the time, whether it’s skydiving or just getting in our car or our shower every day. We also tend to follow others pretty closely – sometimes blindly – and, metaphorically speaking, our depth perception is not much better than a sheep’s. We all could use a little guidance from somewhere.
Which is where an anam cara can come in pretty handy. The Holy knows that if we can awaken our own soul, and nurture than inner anam cara that we all have, then we can become that shepherd that can help the other sheep in our lives. We can be that trusted voice that others hear and flock to because they know we have only their best interest and safety at heart.
There are other thieves and bandits out there, people who say they want to be our friend, but betray us in the end. An anam cara, however, is one who never betrays us, never leads us astray and never casts us out to the wolves.
An anam cara is someone you can count on like one, two, three – that wonderful, wild companion who prepares the feast when the enemy strikes, that friend who awakens your soul, raids your fridge and leads you beside the still waters of life.
How would it change the way you lived, Jubilants, if you awakened your soul and became your own inner anam cara? How would it change the way you lived, Jubilants, if you realized there are many anam caras, some who may be sitting in this room right now who just waiting to anoint you with their unconditional love?
How would it change the way you lived, Jubilants, if you looked past the dirt and grime life has caked onto other people and saw their inner beauty instead? How would it change the way you lived if you were willing to become their anam cara, to be their comfort in time of distress, their shepherd in times of darkness, their fridge raider?
“What happens when your soul begins to awaken your eyes and your heart and the cells of your body to the great Journey of Love?” Hafiz still asks us today.
Can you feel it, Jubilants?
Don’t be shy. It really is as easy as one, two, three …