Where’s the wolf and what’s missing?

Jesus told this story: The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. John 10.12

Who’s the wolf? Jesus doesn’t identify who the wolf is, but, given the conversation in John 10, it is fair to assume that it is anyone or anything that harms the well-being of God’s community. The corner of God’s community, God’s “sheep,” that I know best is right here: as a Lutheran, as someone who lives in North America, who worships in this town, who lives in this decade. What wolf harms the well-being of God’s community here?

How about anxiety? There is so much anxiety about the economy, about health care, about the war, about our jobs. How about how the culture around us is so polarized that it has become wolf-like? People go after others who have a different political view, a different religious background, a different sports team, a different speed of driving. How about the loss of respectful conversation? Whether on the tennis courts, in the chambers of Congress, on T.V. shows and news broadcasts, or in town meetings, disrespect seems more prominent as we shout at each other, defame one another, talk on top of one another and do not listen respectfully to one another.

I think I’ve seen these wolves sneaking into the sheepfold called the Church, and we haven’t even mentioned yet the lack of knowledge and respect for the Word of God, our over-dependence on material things, and the pressure to get so many things done that we can barely think about what God wants us to do.

It is a challenging time to be Church in our Lutheran corner of God’s community. If I keep talking like this we might just stay huddled in the sheep pen and give up. But the main point of Jesus’ short story is not really about the wolf at all. It’s not even about the hired hand who runs away. The main point of Jesus’ story is about what’s missing from the story. Huh? (To be continued.)