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Christians Against All Animal Abuse
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From Spring 2007 Issue

THE SUPREME PSALM OF CHRISTENDOM: ‘THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD’

 

These opening words of the 23rd psalm are – along with that which follows – an analogy concerning God and His dealings with us. Yes, one reflected through the way a far off shepherd cared for four legged creatures entrusted to his or her care. (Yes, there were occasional shepherdesses in those days as well!). These far off guardians of animals bred sheep for their wool. They are not to be confused with those who feasted on their flock following their ritual slaughter! The latter being the end product of so-called ‘faithless shepherds’ or ‘hirelings’ quoted and denounced in other sections of Holy Scripture.

 

The whole psalm – attributed to King David who’d once rescued a lamb from a lion’s mouth – assures us that one has no need to ever doubt the magnanimous compassion and care of God for us, as it was comparable to a good shepherd’s care for the flock of animals entrusted to him. But of even more relevance to the Christian, Jesus the Son of God – born amongst animals! - enlarged upon the analogy further: “The good shepherd” He said, “is willing to lay down his life for the sheep!” Consequently, should one happen to go astray, then the good shepherd will not rest day or night until he finds it! And should it be wounded, then such an animal carer will bind up the dear creature’s wounds. Indeed, a delightful old gospel hymn sums it up well:

 

‘There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold;

But one was lost on the hills away, Far off from the gates of gold;-

Away on the mountains wild and bare, Away from the tender shepherd’s care

Yet none of those ransomed will ever know just how deep were those waters crossed;

Nor how dark was the night the Lord endured, until He found that sheep which was lost’

 

Well, I don’t know about you, but – as I see it - two things stand out in marked contrast to this top analogy of Christianity in today’s world; something that is, regrettably, overlooked by professing church goers and their leaders as well!. It is the impersonal and insensitive way that cattle are so frequently transported, unlovingly handled, blasted off country roads, and ultimately sold for live export. A sad reflection of how we may well have progressed in our heads; but how dangerous when we have regressed so appallingly from biblical standards with our hearts. And is not this the result of a pitiable system that gives top priority in education to those who soar in the secular curriculum, but are void of any incentive to evolve in the moral and spiritual spheres?  Such a one sided educational system is lethal indeed..

 

As uttered before – and such repetition can be a good thing! - we have everything to fear from those who are ‘educated’ to acquire heads as large as footballs while their hearts are as atrophied as peanuts. Yet we have nothing whatever to fear – and everything to gain - from those in our great cause who are prepared to ‘lay down their lives’ for more vulnerable life than their own. Indeed, Christians are called to be the guardian species; faithful stewards over the rest of God’s creation. And I tell you that none fulfil this calling as much as animal rights activists. What a pity that politicians couldn’t see this. How blinkered and short sighted they appear to be. Yes, and none more so than Dictator Blair, and his dumb babes from whom one might have expected some feminine sparks of compassion! They promised an animals’ charter when they first came into power, yet are notorious for not keeping to their word.

 

For justice and compassion to be revived in this decadent nation the strong must surely be taught to protect the weak; and such acts of virtue should not be confined to ones own species. There are more animals – yes, insects too! – than there are humans; and we have a Christian duty to care for them. God has given US a human life! Well, what an awesome responsibility! “To those that have been given most; from them God will require most!”

 

Just one lighter note! Please note, the fourth word of the title of this article is a personal pronoun: ‘My shepherd’!  The good shepherd of old knew each sheep by its name;  and when he called them, they individually responded. Well, we are also like wayward sheep, and He calls us by name. But in the midst of this world’s secular and business pursuits – within such a hectic life style – we don’t always hear Him. Consequently, sometimes, unpleasant experiences are allowed to overtake us  so that we might begin to ask: ‘what is life all about?’

 

To quote one example, I would occasionally say to those in the hospitals, over which I was diocesan chaplain,: “God sometimes allows us to get on our backs so that we might look upwards to Him!”. What is more, a victim of the Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster had been rescued from blazing oil covered waters within the North Sea. He needed my ministrations speedily; so getting attired in ‘operating theatre’ gear, I prayed earnestly for guidance as to what one should say. But the patient beat me to it!  !” “Padre, the Man upstairs has brought me through this for a purpose” he cried. ”I know the Lord’s Prayer. Will you say it with me?” The top surgeons - who were fighting for his life - momentarily stood back as we repeated the prayer together. Tears of gratitude began to stream down the dear fellow’s crusted face. I tell you, that dear man spiritually passed from death to life that very hour. He knew, in his heart, for the first time that God had been, metaphorically, calling him by name for a long time - had long been searching him out. Yes, this particular patient had been ‘painfully upset’ for a time so as to be ‘powerfully set up’ forever!

 

The 23rd psalm itself – as fittingly expressed by its once reprobate author David (He’d been an adulterer, a liar and a murderer!) - starts with speaking about God in the 3rd person: ‘The Lord’!  It consistently speaks of ‘He’.  But then later, it moves on to speak of Him in the 1st person: ‘Thou’ and ‘me’!  Yes, as the far off gifted author of this psalm of excellence ponders on this analogy of the Almighty, his own relationship begins to evolve from the concept of a far off God to that of One who is intensely close and personal. Yes, while to some others, this spiritual evolvement is discernible via intonation aswell. Here is an example of the latter: two veteran worshippers were invited to read this same psalm in church, and it fell on consecutive Sundays. The first Sunday’s was the turn of a retired actor; and on finishing his reading a fellow worshipper was overheard to remark ‘He obviously knows the psalm well. He read it fluently without as much as one recourse to the open Bible in front of him!’  Well, a week later, the reader of the same psalm was an aged worshipper who had undergone much sorrow, trial and heartache in life.. He was an unlettered man and a manual worker – just as the Lord Jesus had been!  Well, a comment from the same quarter as the previous week was again overheard. It was akin to this: “Well, that retired actor, last week, certainly knew the psalm; but – I’ve got to give it to him - today’s reader appears to know the very one it speaks of!”

 

My friend, real Christianity is all about encountering a Divine friendship. Metaphorically speaking – who knows? – you may well be that one ‘wayward sheep’ for whom our Good Shepherd gave His life. He has, as it were, left the ninety-nine and is searching and calling you by name. And – if so - then all you need to do is respond with a: ‘here am I Lord’ uttered from the heart, and life will never be quite the same again. He’ll no longer be just a past man from out of history but “a friend that is closer than any brother!” and your favourite hymn may well be top favourite ‘Amazing Grace’, just as ex slave trader, Rev. John Newton’s was!

Go on to Joan Court To Go On A Hunger Strike In Oxford
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