Sheep Without a Shepherd
To obtain justice we need leaders that work toward peace.
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Josh was a leader who had a vision of peace.
He saw the plight of the homeless in Portland and had a vision to establish spaces for organized camps throughout the city. He spent hours every day seeking pieces of land that the city could offer to organized, peaceful communities. He established a five mile length area where peaceful homeless folks could camp, if they followed some basic rules, which allowed hundreds to peacefully live. However, he couldn’t help everyone. So when an organized community wanted 70 houseless people to be swept in the middle of winter, he couldn’t protest.
Wes was a leader who had a vision of peace.
He was one of those 70. He fed people and helped build tiny homes for them to live in. It was his vision to take some of the 70 and to establish a new, organized community. They called themselves Forgotten Realms. They found a piece of city property and camped and Josh agreed that they could be there.
Josh was forced out and the new leadership decided to exchange all the safe spaces to sweeps and it is still the policy of Portland today to sweep everyone on the street, no matter how law abiding or clean.
Wes became a leader of oppression and started stealing other people’s items and breaking the rules he established. Eventually he left and Forgotten Realms became leaderless and it was closed down.
This is what happens when positive, compassionate leadership is exchanged for a void. This is what Jesus called being “sheep without a shepherd.” Shepherds is the generic term for any kind of leader, whether village elders, family leaders, kings or prophets that take leadership roles.
The last couple weeks we have been talking about the vision of Advent found in the book of Isaiah.
And one of the major hopes of Advent, one of the promises of Isaiah, is good or true leadership. We said that Isaiah’s advent is the prayer or longing for justice, or a society that helps the poor as well as citizens that can care for themselves. We said that Isaiah’s Advent is longing for freedom from oppression, so our communities can live away from leaders that force the poor to live without their basic needs being met. And so it is only logical that Isaiah speaks about what we replace those evil leaders with.
The wisdom of the ancients is a strange thing. It is a modern myth that history progresses, which makes us automatically wiser than people who lived three thousand years ago. But one thing that they could see as clear, if not clearer, than we, which is human nature and human society. I find that history teaches us not that we progress, but that we have to keep re-learning the same lessons. Technology progresses, but humans have to go through the same lessons again and again. Because our nature hasn’t changed and while the name of politics may be different, the practice of it is just the same. We have just rulers and unjust rulers, whether it be one person, a few people or a large society ruling.
And we are now in a time of Advent. I don’t mean December. I mean we are now living in a time of oppression, a time of injustice, a time of neglect of the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized. We live in a time when leaders use the tool of oppression in order to obtain more power and wealth for themselves. So we live in a time of weeping, of crying, of desperation, of longing… and of hope. Because we know the kind of leadership we need. We were told this by the ancients, and we are still looking. We long for the coming of God to lift up the poor, and persecuted ones and to lift them up to lead this world to peace.