First, let me spend a minute on the Cosmic Christ. You’ll recall that the Cosmic Christ is born out of the energetic and physical connection of all things in the universe and is the archetype of the divine-human (body-spirit) connection. It was not simply a “name” or title for Jesus, but a state of consciousness that we can all achieve when we reach (even momentarily) a state of wholeness or connectedness with all things: a God-us-creation connection. In this understanding, Jesus wasn’t to be the one unique Christ, but a model, template or map to show us all how to BE Christ.
(For the full video version, click here.)
Matthew Fox and 14th century mystic and theologian Meister Eckert (who was clearly far beyond his years) are clear that Jesus manifested the Cosmic Christ. He lived the divine-human-creation link and tried valiantly to bring the rest of humanity to the awareness that the Cosmic Christ exists within every person and every creature. But people didn’t get it. People instead chose to believe that he was the unique and only possible expression of the Christ which has hindered the spiritual evolution of humanity.
Beginning to read the gospels through this lens changes everything. The gospels are now not just stories about what Jesus did and who he was, but about what we can do and who we can be because Jesus showed us that it already exists within us.
As Matthew Fox said, “All of us are anointed ones. We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, persons of beauty and of grace. We are all Cosmic Christs, “other Christs.” But what good is this if we do not know it? Everyone is a sun of God as well as a son or daughter of God, but very few believe it or know it.”
Did you know that the good/bad image of the Shepherd actually comes from Ezekiel 34? In it the prophet Ezekiel has been called to prophesy against the negligent shepherds of Israel because they’ve been taking care of themselves instead of their flock.
“You drink its milk, wear its wool, and slaughter the fat ones, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, or treated the wounded; you have not brought back the strayers, or sought the lost; but you have ruled them with harshness and brutality.” (Ezekiel 34:3-4)
God becomes the Good Shepherd when YHWH then says, “I will seek out the lost, I will return the strayed, I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and I will watch over the fat and the sleek. I will be a true shepherd to them.” (Ezek. 34:16)
These are the qualities the early Christian community saw in Jesus. Plus, in the John passage we have the allusion to Jesus’ death as the ultimate sacrifice of the shepherd. All of this is great, but if we leave it here, we end up simply talking about Jesus as the one taking care of us and we play a fairly passive role in the relationship.
If we take it to the level of the Cosmic Christ it does not deny that the Divine can be experienced as a good shepherd for us, but the experience of that should empower us to be the same for others. Because Jesus was experienced as being the Good Shepherd, we can all be experienced as the Good Shepherd.
So, the question for today and our spiritual journey is… how are we the Good Shepherd? There are two things that stand out for me, personally, when considering the Good Shepherd story as we read it. First, The Good Shepherd was ALL IN. And second, the Good Shepherd created a community based on inclusiveness and unconditional love
The concept of being “all in” reminds me of the analogy of the bacon and egg breakfast. The hen was involved while the pig was committed.
Not having been a real shepherd myself nor having had any real experience with sheep, I decided to do some research and contact my friend Sandy who decided to start a sheep farm a few years ago. Sandy is absolutely, positively, wholeheartedly ALL IN with this sheep stuff. I could hardly find time to connect to her because it is lambing season and she has been helping to birth 130 lambs in the last few weeks. She’s not sleeping, hardly eating, and is probably operating on automatic pilot. But when I did get ahold of her, this is what she said about the Good Shepherd:
- Good shepherds sometimes do things that the sheep hate because it is best for them (manicures, vaccinations…).
- Good shepherds try to minimize stress to the sheep. Sheep hate to be chased, so if I need to move one somewhere and it bolts, I have learned to hang on until it settles down.
- Do you know why shepherds have that distinctive stick? No, it is not a funny walking stick. It is not something to beat off predators. It exists because sheep are naughty. Catch them with the hook and now you have them without chasing them. I didn’t start using one until recently, they are so useful.
- Good shepherds aren’t afraid to get dirty. I have been soaked in every bodily fluid. I don’t remember the last day one of them didn’t ooze something on me. Remember that slime stuff that was around when our kids were small? All of the lambs are covered in it. It’s kinda fun.
- Good shepherds keep track of all their sheep. Good shepherds try to remain amused when small hoodlum sheep decide to eat the data.
- Sheep are contradictions. They are tough and stoic, but also fragile. They are amusing, annoying, demanding… Wait, I think I’m describing toddlers.
Sandy has to be all in or her sheep won’t survive. She is a devoted midwife, vet, and leader, caring for them and doing what is best for them while maintaining a sense of humor and deep love for these creatures.
The Good Shepherd is “all in” when it comes to creating a community based on inclusiveness and unconditional love.
Not only does Jesus talk about how, as the Good Shepherd, he cares for his own sheep, but he talks about having other sheep to lead and bring together as one. No one is left out. Everyone has access to his care, compassion and teachings.
Author James O’Halloran tells a story of a woman named Pearl who, in her 70s demonstrated outside the white house against racism. She was arrested for it and imprisoned. While in jail she had a heart attack but refused to go to the nearest hospital because it did not admit black people. She survived both the heart attack and the prison time and went back to demonstrating against racism. Twenty years later, now in her 90s, O’Halloran met her at a meeting protesting nuclear threat. To him she “seemed a most experience, wise and holy person.” So he decided to ask her a very profound question: what is happiness? Pearl responded without hesitation, “Happiness is belonging.”
It seems to me that this is true. Happiness is belonging… being loved and accepted as we are. Jesus’ ministry was the perfect example of this. He gathered all people from all walks of life, all ages, abilities, male and female alike into his flock (if you will). Differences don’t matter because, in the understanding of the Cosmic Christ we are all one, made of the same stuff, joined by the same energy. As we continue to create this community we call Sacred Journeys, and as we create communities of friends, neighbors, co-workers, classes, or teams, keeping the image of the Good Shepherd in mind will help ensure that each member really belongs.
True shepherding means gathering into one, loving, holding, healing, feeding (body and spirit)… and then sending back out into the world for each to be a shepherd themselves.
We are all the Good Shepherd.
Love & Light!