Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Good Shepherd

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 -- Week of 5 Lent, Year One

To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:
http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com/category/holy-women-holy-men/

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 956)
Psalms 119:145-176 (morning)        128, 129, 130 (evening)
Jeremiah 25:30-38
Romans 10:14-21
John 10:1-18

The voice of Jesus is the voice of care.  His is the voice of love and compassion.  In John's gospel today Jesus uses the metaphor of the good shepherd.  The good shepherd cares for the sheep.  The good shepherd loves the sheep -- protects them and provides for them.  Unlike the hired hand who runs away at threats, the good shepherd stays with the sheep in threatening times and is willing to lay down his life for the sheep.

This shepherd's care extends beyond the immediate and familiar fold.  This shepherd's care and compassion extends universally.  "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."  Whenever the sheep listen to the voice of care, the voice of compassion, they hear the voice of the good shepherd, they follow the voice of the good shepherd.

The shepherd has a mission.  "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

This is our shared mission as sheep of the good shepherd.  We are to share in Jesus' work of care and compassion, that all may have life, and have it abundantly.  His strategy is a humble strategy of service.  He is willing to leave the secure flock of ninety-nine in order to search, find and restore the one sheep that is lost.  Abundant life is for all.

As we've seen during our recent reading from Jeremiah, the metaphor and image of a shepherd is also an image for the rulers in Biblical language.  Today Jeremiah warns the shepherds of Israel, the king and the elite ruling class.  "Wail, you shepherds, and cry out; roll in ashes, you lords of the flock.  ...Flight shall fail the shepherds, and there shall be no escape for the lords of the flock.  Hark! the cry of the shepherds, and the wail of the lords of the flock!"  Jeremiah warns the ruling elite that they will suffer exile in Babylon as God's punishment for their unfaithfulness and injustice.

Jesus' language about the shepherd is also language about leadership.  He speaks to those with power and authority, the shepherds.  He gives them the example that he expects them to follow if they are to be good shepherds, good leaders.  They are to care for the flock.  They are to follow the voice of love and compassion.  They are to give attention to the most vulnerable, the one that is lost or needy.  They are to work that all may have life, and have it abundantly.  Not just some.  Not just the strong or powerful; not just the lucky and resourced; not just the wealthy and fortunate -- the care of the whole flock is the responsibility of the shepherds.

What if our nation's recent conversation about our leadership values were shaped by Jesus' teaching about shepherds?  When we talk about taxes and tax cuts, about programs for health care and defense, about education and poverty -- what if our expectation was shaped by Jesus' teachings about good shepherds? 

Our priorities would be turned toward the needs of the vulnerable, not so much the comforts of the comfortable.  Our focus would be on caring.  Pasture, water, shelter, safety.  Abundant life for all.

The great prophets spoke words of judgment to the shepherds whenever the shepherds became greedy or coercive toward their people, their flock.  Amos was particularly sharp with those who were wealthy and at ease in Israel while people suffered.

Shepherd language is political language.  How shall we lead?  How shall we be led?  The good shepherd serves because the good shepherd cares.  The good shepherd is willing to sacrifice for the sake of the whole flock.  The good shepherd leaves the self-sufficient in order to look for the lost and vulnerable and to save them.  The good shepherd leads with the voice of compassion and love.  The good shepherd cares for all, not just "this fold."  The good shepherd cares for the "other sheep" as well.  The good shepherd leads the sheep to green pastures and clear waters.  The good shepherd fights the ravenous wolves that only want to devour the flock.  The good shepherd leads that we may have life, and have it abundantly.

That is an inspirational political agenda.  I'll follow that kind of shepherding.

Lowell

__________________

Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
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Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

1 Comments:

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Lent Thirty-one

The gateway is Love
Enter this way - lovingly
Find verdant pasture

Peace,
Janet

 

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