Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Sheep of Thine own Fold

Yesterday, I attended a funeral. It was a celebration of the life of the Right Reverend David Standish Ball, seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.

The entire service - readings, music - had been selected by Bishop Ball himself, and, as the preacher told us, we needed to pay attention to the readings and even the words of the hymns. They all spoke of Bishop Ball's great faith and trust in his Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel lesson was about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and the homily included references to sheep, bishop's staffs resembling shepherds' staffs, and more. As I listened, I found myself looking forward to one of my favorite parts of an Episcopal funeral. I know it's strange that I have a favorite part of funerals, but here it is:

The Celebrant, facing the body, says
Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant
N. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine
own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own
redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the
blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious
company of the saints in light. Amen.

"...a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming." Honestly, if I could figure out how to turn this into a t-shirt or coffee-mug slogan, I  would use it. The problem is, any change I could imagine that would make it meaningful to someone who doesn't already understand it - well, any such change would ruin the sheer poetry. But I know that I am a sheep of Jesus's fold, a lamb of His flock, and a sinner of His redeeming. I don't have to wear it on a t-shirt. It was written on my soul at my baptism. It is who I am. It was, of course, who Bishop Ball was. May his memory be a blessing, and may he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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