Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Good Shepherd

John 10:1-11  "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

A shepherd who loves his sheep. A shepherd who knows each sheep by name. A shepherd who will risk his life so that his sheep can be safe. This is an arresting image that has brought great comfort to those of us who follow Jesus. We immediately feel safe, and cared for, and treasured. And so we should.

But this is only half the image. The other half of the image lies in the post-Easter story of Jesus on the beach telling Peter that he is to take over the task of being the shepherd. We who inherit the faith of Peter cannot escape this injunction for ourselves: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). We are to be shepherds like Jesus: knowing, loving, and serving God’s sheep.

The love I have received – I pass on.

You found me at my nadir
When despair attained new heights
I was cold to you
You drew me out
Made me feel
Nourished my soul
Made me love again

Japanese poet Daichi Matsui

Second Sunday of Easter
Partakers of Eternal Life
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.148


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