The Gospel of John 10:11-18: Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
The Psalm for Good Shepherd Sunday is the 23rd Psalm. The 23rd Psalm takes us through chaos to a calming feeling of peaceful meadows and serene waters. Jesus the shepherd comes when we feel that we are lost, weary, restless, in darkness. By taking our conflicts and making them into opportunities gives God an opportunity to do wondrous things through us. In our current state we live our lives as we search for our voice to be recognized by the Risen Christ our Shepherd. Where the world sees hopelessness and despair, we can see Hope for the future. Coronavirus is still impacting all of us, both as individuals and communities. The very essence of everyday life has changed before us; these continue to be unprecedented times. During this time we are invited to find God. We reflect on Psalm 23 and its implications for our lives, now, more than ever. As Jesus recognizes our voice and calls us.
When Jesus told the parable of the shepherd to his disciples it was easier for them to relate as in the rural country sheep and shepherds were commonplace, but to us today the shepherd can be a strong leader who knows their people and the people who know him and he guides them when they are in distress.
The Good Shepherd goes before us to prepare the way, which means there is no place that we go that the Shepherd has not already been. He’s already made sure the path is clear and safe. There may be hardships, there may be mishaps, there may be struggles but The Good Shepherd has already seen those and knows how to help us negotiate through the treacherous territory. He has already prepared a way for us to get through. All we need to do is continue to listen to His Voice and follow Him. What a great gift it is that he knows us by name and calls out to each of us as though we were the only sheep in all the world. Already he knows us, and invites us to know him, and follow him. But a further step is necessary. It is necessary that we listen! Even the voice of Jesus goes unheard unless something within us makes the choice to listen. When we prepare our hearts through prayer and worship, we can more fully and more clearly listen to The Voice of the Shepherd. And when we listen, The Voice of the Shepherd guides us. Listening to The Voice of the Shepherd helps us in making hard choices, choices about who we are and what we believe and what is really important to us. The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us. And by listening to The Voice of the Shepherd, He helps us choose. The Shepherd also loves those who do not want to have anything to do with Him. He even loves those sheep who wander away, who are distracted by the little clump of enticing greenery and suddenly find themselves separated from the rest of the flock. That is when the Shepherd comes searching for them and brings them back into the fold and reminds them where they belong and to whom they belong. Why? Because The Shepherd loves all of Us. The Voice of the Shepherd is there whispering His love for us. Calling us and bringing us into an ongoing relationship. The Voice of the Shepherd Goes Before Us, The Voice of the Shepherd Guides Us, The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us and The Voice of the Shepherd Tells Us Who We Are.
All we must do is tune our hearts and souls and ears to The Voice of the Shepherd. Or as the twenty-third psalm puts it:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; *I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.