Shepherding God’s Flock (17)
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day. Psalm 119.97
How do we know what we love? We love what we look at, think about, attend to, pursue, and delight in. We all know people who love this, that, or the other: football, eating out, one or another kind of diversion, fishing, camping—you name it. The things we love not only occupy our thoughts, they capture our hearts, shape our priorities, and determine how we use our time.
Those who are called to shepherd the flock of God and to lead His sheep into the heavenly city need to make sure their love is rightly focused. Unless we love the “spiritual country” above all else, we won’t be very effective at encouraging other to seek it.
Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) understood this. He taught the shepherds under his pastoral oversight, “But all this is duly executed by a ruler [shepherd], if, inspired by the spirit of heavenly fear and love, he meditate daily on the precepts of Sacred Writ, that the words of Divine admonition may restore in him the power of solicitude and of provident circumspection with regard to the celestial life, which familiar intercourse with men destroys; and that one who is drawn to oldness of life by secular society may by the aspiration of compunction be ever renewed to love of the spiritual country” (The Book of Pastoral Rule).
The Lord’s shepherds need daily time for meditating on Scripture, apart from any of their work of preaching and teaching. It often happens that a pastor’s time in the Word becomes commingled with his preparations, and he fails to hear the voice of God speaking to his own soul. We must ever renew our vision of the unseen realm and listen in silence as the Spirit, using the Word, teaches us what we must do to further prepare for our journey to eternal glory.
We see and experience the world and its ways wherever we go. If we are not to succumb to this, but rise above them, and lift others above them as well, then we must devote ourselves to loving the spiritual country which is our birthplace and home, and the One Who calls us from there, above all other things.
Resources for Shepherds
Our readings from Gregory the Great suggest that the shepherds of God’s flock should take Paul’s advice to keep a close watch on themselves and their ministries. Our book, Fan into Flame, is designed to shepherds assess the overall state of their walk with and work for the Lord. Brief essays on the work of a shepherd are accompanied by self-evaluation tools to help you discover strengths and weakness. Learn more about this book and order a free copy by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
As we wrap-up our Crosfigell series on Columbanus, we’re listening to some scholarly voices whose observations can enrich our appreciation for this great saint. Here’s how John McNeill summarized the greatest of the Irish peregrini:
“There is something difficult for twentieth-century minds to grasp in this seventh-century Irishman who by choice lived below our poverty level; who founded a series of monasteries among foreign peoples; who made friends of bears and squirrels in a forest retreat; who wrote and enforced the severest ascetic rules; who took it upon himself to give advice to popes and dared to rebuke rulers with power to put him to death; who preached diligently from a fund of biblical knowledge; who was unsurpassed in classical learning among his contemporaries, loving and in a free way imitating the Latin poets; and who in his late years wrote a versified letter in a rare meter…”
- John T. McNeill, The Celtic Churches
One of the benefits of keeping a hand in Church history is that we come across great saints like Columbanus in the light of whom we can assess our own lives, discover new zeal for serving the Lord, and bring new disciplines and practices to our daily endeavors.
This week we begin a new series in Crosfigell, looking at a near-contemporary of Columbanus who shared aspects of his name. Colum Cille was the founder of the Iona community and a man in many ways as remarkable as Columbanus. We’ll summarize here some of what we unpack in our Crosfigell study, but you should consider subscribing to Crosfigell to receive the full account.
Crosfigell is mailed every Tuesday and Thursday and offers insights and meditations on writings from the period of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800). You can add Crosfigell to your subscriptions by clicking here.
Visit our Resources for Shepherds page to read reviews and insights and to discover websites and journals, that can encourage you in your walk with and work for the Lord.
T. M. Moore.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 John T. McNeill, The Celtic Churches (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 167, 168.