Our children’s message for April 29, 2012 was based on Jesus’s discourse to his disciples concerning what a good shepherd (a true shepherd) does. For children, and for that matter for adults, the flock of which Jesus speaks can start to sound pretty homogeneous and faceless. (In English, the plural for sheep is not “sheeps” but sheep. Nothing like a little linguistic bias to pre-shape our understanding!)
I prepared six outline drawings of sheep from a coloring template. One started out blank; the other five each had a different marking on it. I reserved the five crayons in a plastic bag for use during the presentation.
Good morning! I have a “flock of sheep” in my hand [indicate sheep drawings] and I’d like to ask each of you to help me watch them for a little while. [distribute the five individual sheep to five children]
Now, I kept one of them because it’s a bit easier to watch just one sheep, and I’d like to show it to the grown-ups. [hold sheep up] All of the sheep in my flock look just like this one.
[naturally, each of the children objects] Really? Yours are different? Show me. [Don’t make a big deal of coloring in the individual marks as the children show them.]
[one by one, the children describes what distinguishes their sheep from the all-white one] Oh, I see…
So… [hold up the completed drawing]:
Each of the sheep looks different? That’s true.
We will be hearing a story of Jesus talking to his friends today. Jesus said he is the good shepherd who cares for his sheep. He said that people who don’t really care about the sheep run away at the first sign of trouble, or danger. But, Jesus said he cares for all of the sheep, and he knows that each one of them is different. Jesus said that he knows each sheep, and each sheep knows him, and that God through Jesus loves each and every one of us, whether we have a pink nose, or orange hair, or a green star on our backs!
Let’s give thanks to God:
Dear God, thank you for knowing who I am, and loving me as I am, and giving me Jesus to watch over me. Amen.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”