On Good Shepherd Sunday as at all other times, the Christian community looks most familiar within our own sheepfolds, such as the comfortable confines of our church and the altar rail where we come for Holy Communion. As a recent poll shows, as soon as we American sheep stop feeling so comfortable, we start looking for a new flock. Half of us worship in a different religion from the one into which we were born.
But what about the 50,000 indigenous Roman Catholics in orthodox Greece, or the Coptic Christians in Egypt (shown here in an Easter procession in Cairo), for whom leaving a denomination would be like severing a limb? They hear the call of the Good Shepherd across the centuries in their families, their communities, their blood. What about the 16 masses conducted each Sunday for prisoners in LA county's prison system? They too hear the call of the Good Shepherd. The sheepfold look may different -- the altars are set over the guards' stations -- but the prisoners, and the guards who worship at their side, are one body with us.
Even consuming the holy meal in our own comfortable sheepfold, we can be anxious about germs from the common cup, whether we're sippers, full-service dippers, or self-serve dippers. Each entails some risk -- all of which we could evade by staying in bed Sunday morning with the covers over our heads to try to muffle the call of the Good Shepherd. My Sunday sermon is here.