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Ps 23 by an Australian sheep

Be part of the mob, not a sheep.

The LORD is my shepherd, I am always in want.
He saves the green pastures for the dairy herd, and leaves me in barren paddocks.
He leads me to still waters- tepid, salty waters.

He doesn’t so much restore my life, as sell it.
He leads me in paths... right to the crutcher, shearer, abattoir, or export ship, for his wallet’s sake.

Yea when I walk through the deepest drought, I will fear no evil, for he shall have already shot me and buried me in a mass grave, if I haven’t already dropped, alone and exhausted, in the back paddock.

His rod and his prod they frighten me, not to mention the dogs.

He prepares me for the table in the presence of my enemies, he basteth my flesh with oil, and perhaps a sprig of rosemary.

Surely dust and blowflies will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of my Lord- never.
(Though at least I’m not a chicken or a pig)

Adapt and use freely, with acknowledgemnet, and please let me know

 

We are experiencing a massive drought in inland NSW, sheep are being slaughtered at double the usual rate just to get a bit of money off them before they drop dead of starvation in the paddocks.  4000 died late last year of heat stroke on an export ship. 

Farmers have thousands or tens of thousands of sheep, not 100.  And if one goes missing, it’s probably bad luck for it, or maybe a bullet if the farmer comes across it sick or lame in the back paddock.
Not that farmers are any more heartless than our biblical shepherds, but it’s just the reality of large range arid zone sheep country.

So if Psalm 23 was based on most Australian sheep, not just the odd hobby farm pet lamb, it would sound something like the version in the left column.

A bullet in the brain of a lost lame sheep is a kindness, but not a great metaphor for God.

As a twentieth century Australian, I don’t want to be a sheep, nor have God for a shepherd.  The metaphor doesn’t work for me.

Now I know that as well churched people we have learned enough about ancient Jewish culture to know that it was a pretty good metaphor for God back then, and it made sense when it was applied to Jesus the good shepherd (also, confusingly, the lamb).

But in Australia, it’s not the sheep which is a good metaphor for Christians, but the kangaroo.

Let's not invite people to become sheeep like us, but part of Jesus' mob.

Using a kangaroo as a metaphor for Christians?  How weird!  Isn’t it odd, though, that 250 years after Christianity reached Australia, it still feels weird, quaint, to use Australian metaphors for God and the church?

Maybe we’re still having trouble finding God in this place even after all this time.  The first Europeans here certainly had a hard time of it. Baron Field represents the views of many early Australian Christians.  In about 1850, he described Australia as-
              … this fifth part of the Earth,
              … seem[s] an after-birth,
              Not conceiv'd in the Beginning
              (For GOD bless'd His work at first,
                And saw that it was good),
            But emerg'd at the first sinning,
            When the ground was therefore curst; --
                And hence this barren wood! …

Australia is a cursed land, a result of the Fall!  Barren and inhospitable. However, even the Baron was suitably impressed with the magnificent icon of Australia, a metaphor for its hope. A creature which I think would make a great metaphor and fitting aspiration for the church. 

The body of Christ, the pilgrim people, the mob of kangaroos.

Kangaroo, Kangaroo!
Tho' at first sight we should say,
In thy nature that there may Contradiction be involv'd,
Yet, like discord well resolv'd,  It is quickly harmonized.

For howsoe'er anomalous, Thou yet art not incongruous,
Repugnant or preposterous.

With fifty steps to thy one bound. Thou can not be amended: no;
Be as thou art; thou best art so. Be still the glory of this land,
Happiest Work of finest Hand!

Can the kangaroo work as a metaphor for us Christians- the pilgrim people always on the way, and for Christ whose Way we follow?

What happens when biology meets theology in the kangaroo?

The one who leads kangaroos is a kangaroo- a metaphor that God is one of us.  A claim that pops up quite often in church! Or if you take the non-trinitarian tack, Jesus is one of us, not someone who is planning to eat us later.

Kangaroos are efficient, they have no fat, they undertake their pilgrimages with grace, powered by a unique locomotive force. A common pentecost claim for Christians.

They can sense water from a mile away.  They are nearly perfectly adapted for journeying in community.  Yet they rest when they need to- they still love the green valley and the quiet waters. 

And there are so many kinds.  Which are you:  big red, gentle grey, rugged wallaby, solitary tree kangaroo? An echo of denominations, or perhaps a parallel to Paul's multi-organ body of Christ.

Whatever opportunity has presented itself in the vast evolutionary journey of life in Australia, kangaroos have taken up the challenge, and succeeded admirably.  They are adaptable and diverse.  They don’t all try to fit into the same mold.  Some travel in community, some go it alone for a time. 

Like the church in Acts 2, Kangaroos have everything in common.  There are no rich and poorthough there are clear leaders.

They defend themselves against dingoes, rather than hoping a good shepherd will miraculously appear and do it for them.  Sounds a bit like, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." 

Kangaroos find their own water, they don’t stand around bleating about hos thirst they are. They teach the young where it can be found. 

They listen to and learn from the wisdom of the elders. Each generation learns what it needs to survive from the previous one, and passes it on to the next.  They respect tradition even whilst adapting to the new.

And within that passing on of wisdom, they follow the leader, the alpha male (I can't think of any way of working the omega in there yet!). 

Of course, they fight, and bicker, and occasionally kick each other when they’re down.  Which only strengthens my case for adopting the metaphor as one for the church!

Kangaroos are not easily domesticated or tamed.  Kangaroos leap over fences or through fences, nothing distracts them from their ultimate goal: the food  of life.  Living water.

There is probably something to the fact that while we have the Australian Kangaroos in Rugby League and the Wallabies in Rubgy Union, no team is called the sheep. 

Shouldn’t our metaphors, rather than pulling us back to Palestine, through England, embed us here?

Shouldn't they make immediate intuitive sense, without the need for a biblical history lesson, to those we want to communicate the gospel to?

If you really want, God can continue to be a shepherd- the literal meaning being the one who feeds. 


Kangaroos do need to feed. We still need God to feed us.  But God is one of us- the alpha kangaroo. 

God loves us, knows what it is like to be us. 

God doesn’t put a bullet in us if we get sick or send us to the abattoir if we don’t. 

We are the mob.  Christ is the alpha, the head, the one we follow.

What wonderful praise this would be for the church, as it was for the kangaroo:

What a magnificent vision of community to invite people into, rather than inviting them to be a stupid, neglected sheep.

O Church- O church!
Tho' at first sight we should say,
In thy nature that there may Contradiction be involv'd,
Yet, like discord well resolv'd,  It is quickly harmonized.

For howsoe'er anomalous, Thou yet art not incongruous,
Repugnant or preposterous.

With fifty steps to thy one bound. Thou can not be amended:
no;
Be as thou art; thou best art so.
Be still the glory of this land,
Happiest Work of finest Hand!

Adapt and use freely, with acknowledgemnet, and please let me know