As morning breaks and the sun rises in the sky, the Chief Undershepherd descends upon his flock to protect and nourish them. The shepherd is a large and loud man, a man who takes his job seriously. He takes himself seriously too as is evidenced by the constant air of importance that swirls around him like a cloud. In fact, there is very little about which the Chief Undershepherd is not serious — right down to care he takes with the four pointed hanky sticking from his dark gray business suit.
He approaches the flock with a large smile plastered on his face. The smile slips a little as he spots an injured sheep that has fallen prey to some rock or hole and now nurses and injured leg. The shepherd glances down at the animal and then then begins to yell because he knows no other volume.
“THIS IS ALL YOUR OWN FAULT, YOU KNOW. I TOLD YOU TO WATCH OUT WHERE YOU STEPPED. NOW YOU EITHER CUT OUT THAT LIMPING OR THE REST OF THE HERD WILL JUST LEAVE YOU HERE ALONE.”
The sheep bleats piteously but the shepherd pays it no mind. There is no place for weaklings in this herd. Either you keep up and mind the rules or you’re on your own. That’s how it has always worked.
The sun rises slowly as the day progresses and the herd grows thirsty in the pasture. A few brave sheep even approach the shepherd to cry out for a drink. But it takes the shepherd hours to realize that they are even there because he is so preoccupied with writing the thirty-eighth chapter of his new book “The Great Pasture Manual: The Chief Under-Shepherds Guide to Sheep, Their Stupidity, And How To Get More Wool Out Of Them.” Finally he looks up as their pitiful cries grow louder.
“YOU’RE ALL ONLY THIRSTY BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T PAY ATTENTION WHEN I GAVE MY LECTURE LAST WEEK ON PROPER WELL-DIGGING TECHNIQUES!”
The sheep do seem to recall that the shepherd had given a lecture but the shepherd had announced he was going to teach them how to find water and then spent the entire hour yelling about how wrong the shepherds were teaching sheep in other pastures. They now knew a lot about not speaking to other sheep or listening to other shepherds but the part about finding water was still very unclear.
At last, the shepherd tires of the bleating and rises, walking to stand before the herd.
“THE GREAT OVERSHEPHERD HAS TOLD ME THAT IF YOU WANT WATER YOU’LL HAVE TO WORK FOR IT,” he screams, “I’LL NEED AT LEAST 10% OF YOUR WOOL PLUS ANOTHER 10% SO I CAN HIRE SOME NEW SHEPHERDS TO STEAL SHEEP FROM OTHER PASTURES. ANY OF YOU WHO AGREE COME DOWN HERE TO THE FRONT AND KNEEL DOWN TO GET SHORN.”
The sheep have little choice but to obey. After all, this shepherd is the only one who can tell them where the water can be found and they won’t last long without it. And after giving up their wool, each receives a sip of tepid water. It is just enough to keep them alive but leaves them still thirsty.
“AND NOW IT’S TIME FOR OUR OUTREACH!” yells the Chief Undershepherd and the sheep give a silent groan but none dare complain too loudly lest the shepherd here and try to give them “comforting counsel” with the the heavy rod he held in his hand. As they do each week, the sheep begin to trot around the perimeter of the pasture, bleating at the top of their lungs to let all the sheep outside know exactly how wonderful this pasture is and how good the the Chief Undersheperd is.
A few of the sheep wonder if there really is a Great Overshepherd or if the tyrannical shepherd has just invented him to scare the sheep. If He is there, they decide, He must not like sheep very much. Otherwise, they think he would have sent them a better shepherd. Perhaps even one who would give his life for his sheep.