John 10 v 11 – 18
Let me introduce you to my staff.
Now you may be expecting to me to introduce you to my typist, my researcher, my type setter and my distribution team , but as I don’t have any of these people at my disposal , I would only be introducing you to myself.
So, let me introduce you to my staff.
I purchased it in 2018, from a National Trust shop at Hunter’s Inn in Devon. I was on holiday with my daughter, my son in law and my two grandsons and staying at a farm near Paracombe. Leading from the farm was a footpath that eventually led to Hunter’s Inn and then on to Hells Mouth, a secluded bay and rocky outcrop jutting into the sea.
We had undertaken several walks during the week and all had terminated in a steep incline to reach the final destination. Now I really enjoy walking, – downhill, – but I’m not over keen in walking uphill especially, as so often happens, that by some act of mischief it appears that someone increases the incline of the path making it far steeper coming back than it was on the outward journey, (or so it feels).
I had noticed that some of the more experienced and hardened walkers had enlisted the help of walking sticks, modern light- weight aluminium with plastic accessories and nylon straps to wrap around the wrists. These sticks obviously propelled the walkers up the steepest slopes as they all seemed to pass me with minimal effort. In view of this revelation I decided that it was time that I invested in this simple but apparently effective aid to my fell walking and where better to buy one than from a National Trust shop one of which happened to be at Hunter’s Inn.
Unfortunately, on searching the shop I discovered that the world and its wife had also decided to purchase the before mentioned sticks leaving only an empty rack where the sticks should have been displayed. However, not accepting defeat I rummaged around at the farthest corner of the shop and found the one and only walker’s staff. It was made of Ash, (the label said so), and was 1.6m, (5 feet) long with a metal shoe at the bottom and a hole drilled through the top to house a leather strap to go round the wrist. This was far more superior than a 1m, (3 feet) long aluminium stick with plastic appenditures, this one was the real thing and it was for me.
When I had recovered from learning the price, I paid the National Trust volunteer the money, (she gave me a complimentary bag as I had spent so much), and left the shop better prepared to face the rigours of the return journey and that soul destroying final incline.
It is surprising how walking with a staff adds to your confidence and agility and as we continued our walk towards Hells Mouth I began to depend more and more on my new purchase. The rhythm of the tap, tap of the metal tip to the staff on the stony rocks gave an assurance that we were making progress. It also became a source of annoyance to the rest of the walking group and earned me the nickname of, ‘Long John Silver’, or ‘Gandalf’ from Lord of the Rings.
It was when we ascended the steep incline leading back to the farm that the staff came into its own. Periodically I could stop and lean on the staff for support while I had a well-earned breather.
Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd’, not any shepherd but the good shepherd. In saying this he emphasised that he would do anything to protect his flock. He would never desert them when danger threatened; he would never leave them hungry but would lead them to the greenest pasture. He would never see them lost or not knowing which way to go and would lay down his life for each one of his sheep.
The Shepherd always has his staff or crook and Christian art often depicts Jesus as the good shepherd with his staff ready to guide and protect, support and lead us through life and its storms. The hired shepherds work only for money and don’t own or care for the flock. When danger comes they will run away and leave the flock to the mercy of the wolves, but Jesus never abandons his sheep, he knows each one as his father, (God) knows him and he knows the father.
In the autumn of 2018 I returned to Paracombe, along with my trusty staff, by myself and spent a few days walking the footpaths. While walking a narrow road I came across a herd of sheep, (well two or three) that had escaped from their field. By stretching out my arms and my staff, doing my best Adam Henson on BBC Countryfile impersonation, I helped the farmer retrieve the escapees.
I’m relieved it was not his bull that had escaped.