“Aunt Ellie, tell us a story about the ewe of long ago,” the little ones begged. The following is what ensued:
Once upon a time, a contented, somewhat plump ewe was separated from her flock with no warning. Somehow the open gate was suddenly slammed shut and she was left outside. Stunned, she lingered just outside the fence for several days, hoping that one of the shepherds would come to seek her, for she was indeed lonely and lost and hurting. Sadly, not even a single one of them did.
A few of the ewes wandered over and tried to console her, but soon most of them forgot about her. They were busy with their lambs and rams and with wool-gathering. They did not intend to be hurtful; they just had other knitting to tend to. She understood perfectly, for she too had enjoyed the comfort and safety of the inside for her entire life. It was a new experience for her to be on the outside, and she hardly knew which way to turn.
Determined to survive, she found a rock and hid behind it for quite some time, sustaining herself with whatever she could find. She was not quite ready to venture forth just yet. However, after a while, she missed the feasts and the fellowship that had always meant so much to her; so she picked a path and began to amble along, hoping to discover new ways of doing things, perhaps.
As she was looking for the right way, she was joined by other sheep on the narrow path — others who were seeking new pastures for various reasons. Some were dirty; some were black; some were injured. All were in need of travel buddies. They bleated and baaaa’d and questioned and consoled and sometimes sang as they somewhat falteringly and hesitantly made their way from one crossroads to the next, never sure exactly what it was they were looking for. They hoped that they would know it when they saw it.
Finally, one day they passed a small white building with a cross on top and colored glass windows. One of the wanderers said, “I know what that is. It’s called a church. One of us should go in and check it out. Maybe we could find a home there.”
The ewe volunteered to be the scout. The sign in front proclaimed in large letters that this was called The Church of the Found. On the door was the list of requirements for entrance: “NO wine, NO dancing, NO . . .” She didn’t have to look beyond the first two in order to know that she would not be welcome. The others were waiting, so she hurried down the steps to report the rules. They were puzzled. Didn’t that shepherd they had heard so much about — David — didn’t he dance? And what about the one who called himself The Good Shepherd — didn’t he turn water into wine? What would they do about the entrance requirements? The little band of misfits decided to continue their journey.
Before long, they saw a cloud of dust in the distance. As it got closer, the little group of seekers could see that they were about to come face to face with a herd of prigs. The leader of that group was rather intimidating. She said loudly, ”You really are taking up too much of the road, and you’re in our way! Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Timidly, one of the younger ewes spoke up. “We’re lost. We’re hungry and thirsty. We’re looking for a fold. Could you help us?”
The prigs consulted among themselves for a couple of seconds; then their leader looked the young ewe right in the eye and said, “Well, you can’t follow us; your hair’s too short and so is your skirt; you go to the brook only to flirt. You’re much too worldly; you can’t go with us. You have a tattoo and you sometimes cuss.” With a toss of her priggish head, she led her friends past and they went on their way, choking on gnats, with their huge diamond snout-rings glistening in the sunlight.
Tired and discouraged, however determined, the group trudged on. They held one another up sometimes; they led one another to the good grass; they tended one another’s lambs; they tried to help one another avoid stumbling over the boulders that lay in the path. In short, they loved one another.
After a while, they came to another building with a cross on the roof. This one was more modern in appearance, and it had a sign in front that said, “Everyone welcome. Anything goes. Do what you want. If it works for you, it works for us.” The first ewe was hesitant to investigate, so a ram of questionable lineage decided to find out more. He was interested; the lack of rules was appealing; but when he opened the door and looked inside, even he was astonished at what he saw. Apparently, these folks had decided that the Book of Truth was no longer true.
The little group came to a standstill in the middle of the road. What were they to do? Where would they fit? The narrow were too narrow for most of them, and the broad were too broad for the rest of them. They were confused and felt more lost than ever. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed, a figure stood in front of them. They heard a familiar voice.
The voice was gentle. “What do you want?” he said.
“We are seeking the right way,” the ewe answered. “I guess we need to find a church.”
“Are you believers in the Christ?” he asked.
“Yes, definitely!” They suddenly realized whose voice this was. This was The Good Shepherd himself! He had come to find them! He was speaking again . . .
“Then look around. Look at one another. YOU are the church. Now . . . come . . . follow ME.”
“. . . he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4).
And that, little flock, is how the ewe of long ago finally found her way.