Print   |   Back
October 16, 2013
Tune My Heart
He Finds His Sheep
by Marian Stoddard

A few weeks ago a woman was baptized in our ward after her adult daughter had been a member for a few months. The mother started attending and meeting with the missionaries because she wanted to see what it was that was making her child so happy with life, and she caught the light and felt the Spirit herself. She found the gift of testimony, and we made her welcome with gladness.

In the next sacrament meeting the priesthood formed its circle around her to perform the ordinance of confirmation. After confirming her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and saying to her, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” the bishop’s young counselor paused. Then clearly and deliberately he told her, “Kathryn, Jesus Christ has found you.”

Jesus Christ has found you! In the quiet, respectful waiting of the congregation to hear the blessing that would be given on this occasion, that startled our attention. Don’t we talk about “finding Christ?” Isn’t our image of missionary work an image of leading them by the hand and drawing them to where He is? Telling them who he is and why it matters?

He’s waiting for them to come to him; he invites all to come to him, the scriptures say. Doesn’t he already, always know where we are? (Which is, often, not where we should be.)

Yes, he does, but as surely as our Father in Heaven knows each one of us perfectly and sent us off to mortality with all the preparation He could give us, His Son wants to gather us in to safety and promise in his own perfect love for us.

It shot into my heart, and I wasn’t the only one. This is the image of the sheep who doesn’t know where the flock is, where it needs to have warmth and pasture and safety. This is the good shepherd who goes and finds the one who isn’t in the right place yet, who needs to be with the rest.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. (Matthew 18:12-13)

This shepherd isn’t just holding tight and hoping the lost sheep lucks into the right path. Nor is he the one calling out into the night and simply hoping it’s still within earshot. Neither is he sending someone else, maybe less familiar or less invested, to go out calling for the sheep.

In this description, the shepherd knows which ones should be there but are not with the flock, and hurries before some tragedy can strike and lose him his numbered, valued, loved sheep. He knows the sheep will answer his call in his voice, and be happy.

A pair of songs came to mind as I thought about this through the day, different settings in paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm. I was thinking that they were two different musical settings of the same words, but I realized that they were in fact separate origins. One* is a setting of words by Isaac Watts, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” written in 1719 and married to an Appalachian hymn tune, first printed in 1835, in pentatonic (five note) plainsong, very simple and eloquent. I met it later in life. The first verse:

My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

The other, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,”** is a stirring choral anthem which I have sung many times in choirs over the years. (There is also another version set to an Irish melody.) It begins:
(verse 1)

The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine forever.

That is a sure promise and a sure truth. But what if we wander away or get turned around or just forget where our true help comes from? If this is us, the music rises:

(verse 3) Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me;
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

That is an image of forgiveness and redemption. Plucking us out of danger, he doesn’t berate, but rejoices that he has saved us from harm. He is always watching over and searching for his sheep. Who are us.

“Jesus Christ has found you.”

It’s not that he doesn’t know just where we are; we don’t need finding in the same sense that we can recognize as mortal searchers, panicked and fearful — have you ever turned around and didn’t know where your child had disappeared to in a store or a park, or standing right by the car as you were ready to load up?

But he knows his sheep, those who left our heavenly home so anxious to make the right choices and find the path that would bring them back. The ones who already love him but can’t remember. He asks us to bring souls to him, but he also is actively seeking after us. We turn to where he waits for us, and he runs to meet us and gather us into his embrace.

Then, we find the conclusion of Isaac Watts’s hymn. We are:

No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

Because Jesus Christ has indeed found us, and “then through all the length of days,” we can find rest in the arms of his love.

*Here are two settings of the Appalachian hymn, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmCd_cGsWyE (Here it’s played with a bowed dulcimer, much as it might have sounded at the time it was written, with the images of a shepherd’s care.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMeUFQPCbuQ (Here, a rendition by the MormonTabernacle Choir.)

**“The King of Love” in the version I know is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_557827&feature=iv&src_vid=vsMKl3M1nMM&v=huZvQD87CIk with pictures


Copyright © 2019 by Marian Stoddard Printed from NauvooTimes.com