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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: The Good Shepherd Edition

I was just commenting this morning to a local clergy gal pal that I sometimes dread this week of the lectionary, with all of the lamb/sheep/shepherd imagery. I suppose it all goes back to seminary, when I heard not one, but two really horrible sermons about sheep. (Let's just say that I know more about the sex lives of sheep than I ever wanted to know, since I'm not a sheep-breeder.)

I have also been very confused by outside commentary on "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." How to reconcile this idea of docile sheep hearing and obeying the shepherd's voice with the evidence that sheep are actually pretty stupid creatures?

On the other hand, I love singing the hymn "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" by Isaac Watts

This is what I'm wrestling with this week--how about you?


  1. I figure that I wll open the sermon by singing a camp song I Just Wanna Be a Sheep. But then the real question is do I really???

    I think the sheep/shepherd image can be reclaimed somewhat, even in our induvidualistic, "self-made man[sic]" culture. Just not sure how yet, but I think it centers on:
    a) trust
    b) a willingness to admit we cna't do it by/for ourselves

    As always, my opening thoughts (which sometimes don't resemble the finished sermon)are posted at the church blog

    Oh, and an opening prayer has been posted at my place (click my name)

  2. I have sworn off sheep. But if I were doing sheep, I think I might play up the communal aspect of being a sheep..I have been struck by the communal thinking (as opposed to the individualistic thinking more usual in the U.S.) of the Korean-American community in response to last week's shootings at Virginia Tech. I think there is something there to be learned.

    But, like I said. No sheep for me. I'm reading the Dorcas/Tabitha story, the Acts passage for this week. If only I had some brilliant thought to share about it.

    And the secretary at this new church likes to run bulletins on TUESDAY (that's today!), so I need to at least come up with a title soon...

  3. ANd BTW, what on earth does sheep sex/breeding have to do with these passages?????

  4. I'm not preaching this week - it's hubby's turn - so no sheep for me, either. Just wanted to amble over here and see what y'all were up to. I'm hungover from an awful (and long) Executive Council where multiple people acted like children. I hate those kinds of meetings, esp. when I can't sleep afterwards b/c of them. Bleh.

    esperanza, it would kill me if I had to have stuff ready for the bulletin by Tuesday!! We get our drafts in on Tuesday but we still have time to tweak until first thing Friday morning.

  5. We've been following Acts here at my church, and I'm thinking of framing Peter raising Tabitha from the dead in terms of Christ's disciples following their shepherd.

    I read an interesting passage online that made the point that perhaps sheep are not "dumb" but different from cattle in that cattle are driven from behind, but sheep prefer to be led. "You push cows, but you lead sheep, and they will not go anywhere that someone else does not go first - namely their shepherd who goes ahead of them to show them that everything is all right."

    How do we follow Jesus?

    Just some thoughts. And blessings to you, earthchick, I've had plenty of meetings like that and they take a lot out of you.

  6. Not a preacher, but just to add some levity: I am in a small lectio group that meets on Sunday nights and uses a passage from the next week's lectionary. Everyone wanted to do sheep the other night. A couple of us had been on Iona in Scotland last summer and therefore had some funny sheep stories. (Much of the walking on Iona is done across its multitude of sheep pastures.) If you have ever spent time rescuing sheep who did not want to be rescued or trying to discern whether the black sheep or the white sheep are on the wrong side of the fence when you in fact know nothing about sheep, you start to see a lot of humor in the sheep imagery of the Bible.

  7. I've been preaching the Revelation passages and I'm struck this early in the week by the promise at the end of chapter 7 that the Lamb will be the shepherd. No, I don't know what I'll do with this paradox, but I think it's worht exploring.

    That, and the obvious connection to the 23rd Psalm about being led by the still waters.

    "16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.""

  8. I definately gave a children's sermon the last time this came up, and sang "I just wanna be a sheep!" They loved it! I have trouble taking myself seriously sometimes when I'm doing stuff like that...

    This Sunday marks 100 years of ELCA campus ministry, so I'll be trying to tie that into the sermon as well... hmmm... college students are like sheep because....=

  9. Interesting, my goal is always to have the bulletin done by Tuesday. THe secretary works Tues and Thrs mornings so that helps make sure she has time to copy it. Also during the winter the choir meets on Tuesday nights so if the bulletin is done they can see it and know what hymns are happening.

    Mind you I work Monday and take Friday off so that shifts my work-week.

  10. I hate to ruin a possibly useful sermon illustration...but you actually can lead cattle. I grew up on a dairy farm, and every dawn and dusk my dad would go out to the edge of the pasture and call out, "Come boss! Come boss! Come boss!" A few minutes later a single file of Holsteins could be seen obediently making their way up the path back to the barn.

    (What can I say? I like cows more than I like sheep.)

    Last Sunday's new sanctuary dedication was wonderful; can't wait to move in for good (there's still a lot to be done); I got my Prayers of the Church done ahead of time, which is very unusual. This Sunday I am going to be on sickbed duty with Fellow Traveler as she recovers from surgery. So I'll be looking forward to all ya'll's thoughts on sheep and shepherds (and cows) and such.

  11. Rev Dave: I kind of like the idea of using the Revelation text as a sermon text(never thought I'd be typing that!)...exploring the theme of what Barbara Rossing calls "Lamb power," which is the opposite of the Christ-as-Rambo popular perception.

  12. L.C.
    Why do you call the cows boss?

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. I'm breaking BAAA-d for the SHEAR fun of it and going with the Acts passage. Sorry - couldn't resist. In reading it, I can't figure out if Peter knew what was going to happen when he went in. I don't think he did. Being the headstrong kind of guy that he seemed to be, it must have been hard for him to go in without a plan other than prayer. But, when he took the time to seek God, boy, did God break out. Those are my initial thoughts anyway.

    Hey, does anyone have a good baptism sermon?

  15. Lutheranchik:

    Let me try this again, without all the typos.

    I can still bellow out "Come Boss!" with the best of them, from my dairy upbringing. Sheep may know their master's voice, but our cows knew what grandpa's pickup sounded like. Cows can be led, though around here they are typically driven by cowboys and dogs(and sometimes literally driven in the back of the cattle truck.)

    And sheep around here are driven as well; the flocks are much too large to lead easily.

    Sorry to ruin the cliches that dominate the preaching on this passage.

    Oh, and I think that Boss and Bossie comes from the latin term for ox, _Bos_.

  16. I am trying to re-enter the world following an 8 day conference on clergy renewal. *sigh*

    I have no idea what I am going to preach on this Sunday. Plus I have to write two sermons since I will be out of town on a site visit early next week followed by a search committee visiting later that week, including Sunday.

    We're still using the Common Lectionary, until Pentecost. So, off track from most of what you all have as resources (no Dorcas).... I think I'll do some teaching on the Book of Revelation, it's not left behind...

  17. Hi friends, I had to be away from my computer for a few hours there, but I'm glad to see the discussion in full swing.

    I'm trying my darndest to keep away from the sheep imagery, but will probably capitulate in the end.

    Gord, the sex talk had to do with how sheep are marked so that the male can tell where the...ahem..."business end" of the female is. The sermon went downhill from there...I don't remember how/if the preacher related it to the text. How could I, really?

  18. I'm skipping the sheep thing, I think. I was going to do sheep and talk about all the sheep and shepherds we saw roaming around the hills of Israel while there...

    But now that I've read the Acts passage more closely I think I am going with that. I always like a good woman disciple! It isn't often we get those passages. I'm not sure where I'm going with it though.

    I am pondering the question chilly fingers wrote about whetherr Peter knew what was going to happen when he entered the house.

    Not much insight here, yet. I'm mulling and pondering yet!

  19. mmm, sheep.

    we have the children's musical (Heroes of the Faith) for the message this week. Just prayers and liturgy to write here! woohoo!

  20. woohoo, no sermon for me this week--our MP is speaking again (rescheduled from last month). Of course, since he had to cancel last month, maybe I should put something together just in case it happens again...

    Also, I'm (re) adjusting to contacts so reading is problematic the next couple of days... That and my back is still very painful.

    But if I were preaching, I'd look at the Acts passage. Away with the sheep!

    Although Bruce Prewer has a nice paraphrase of Psalm 23 on his webpage (I found it through

    Otherwise, I'm trying to catch up on other things and spending my free time with kd lang (my new cd, that is... I wish it were really her, like Antonio bringing our sermons).

    OK, no more Percocet for RP!

  21. I grew up with sheep AND cows and neither is particularly bright. I have lots of sheep stories, which I won't be using this year. :-)

    As this is a Fifth Sunday we will be celebrating members who serve quietly, behind the scenes. A lot like Dorcas, in fact, so choosing the Acts passage is pretty much a no-brainer. Of course, I will only have a few minutes to devote to it as sermon time on Fifth Sundays is traditionally spent lifting up servants of the church.

    Chilly Fingers, I have a Pentecost sermon that says a lot about baptism as I was baptizing a 12 year old girl that day. Would you like me to email it to you?

  22. RP, glad you're off the Percoset!
    JSM, welcome!
    mompriest, welcome back!
    earthchicknits, bleh!
    One of our church members will be speaking about his recent medical mission trip to Honduras, and I will be hushing up other than to pray and to help him with the Children's Time. It is a busy week, so I am grateful for the break.
    In this job, I write and make choices for the bulletin on Monday, because the week gets so busy, but the admin doesn't print it until Friday, so there is time for changes. I just like knowing where I'm going. (Complete change from Small Church, where we sometimes ran the bulletins ourselves on Sunday morning and I might be changing it on Saturday night!)

  23. You all are really making me take a second look at Acts.

    (I could still have the Psalm reading and sing that gorgeous hymn, right?)

    And like revdari, gotta love a story about a woman disciple!

  24. Just a worship note for you all: Marty Haugen has a beautiful setting of Psalm 23 titled "Shepherd Me, O God." It's available if you have a GIA license (and in the new ELCA hymnal for you revgallutherpals). We'll be using it for our psalm this Sunday.

    Not sure if I'm going to preach on sheep or shepherds - the Tabitha story intrigues me. Then again, last Sunday I was going to preach about Paul and wound up preaching about Peter instead. The Spirit leads in some mysterious ways...

  25. Thanks for the welcome, Songbird. I've been a longtime lurker, but just can't get up the bravery to start a blog of my own.

    Sorry, rev dave, to perpetuate cliches. I know nothing about sheep, being a city girl and all, and was just trying to help. Guess you can't believe everything you read on the internets! ;)


  26. Let me know if you want the Hip Hop Psalm 23.
    I mean it. We read four different versions/adaptations at the beginning of worship on Good Shepherd Sunday last year, as well as letting the congregation read along with the KJV. We may tire of talking about sheep, but the 23rd Psalm is in people's bones, and they (and I) love to hear it.
    Why don't I know that Camp Song? I think we're going to move the Good Shepherd stuff to Children's Sunday, so I would love to use it. Can anyone point me to a resource?

  27. SOngbird,
    I found the song (with Guitar chords) on a Google search. If you go here you will find it.

  28. Actually, sheep don't know what's good for them. And when they get in a predicament, they can't get out of it - they panic. Cows do learn things though - like which stall is theirs to be milked at... and how to kick. hard. sideways.

    I'm with you Rev Maria, neither quadruped is particularly bright!

    Who still has a dent in her shinbone from a particularly nasty Jersey!!

  29. Many years ago, an Episcopal bishop I respected a lot said the following about sheep:

    "Sheep are recalcitrant, smelly, dumb animals--and they never grow up to be shepherds."

  30. Rev. Maria - I would love to see that sermon. I think you can get to my email via my blog (which I am ashamed to say I have not updated in a month!)

  31. OK so sort of strange way to begin my introduction but I can say that I'm a Rev.Gal who loves sheep! But really I can not imagine what would be so interesting about their breeding.

    I sold my hobby flock before seminary but the time spend provided rich material- some of which does indeed make into sermons.

    The sheep really do know their shepherd's name. We're not talking about the massive herds in slaughter house pens but a nice flock of 20 or 30. They would scatter when a stranger came around and I can remember the ram alerting me with his urgent bleeting that there was a strange man along the fence line.

    I know that when I'd have to move the flock that if I ran after them they would scatter but if I got out in front to lead them they would naturally follow me.

    Just some thoughts on sheep

  32. Hi, there are some good discussions here about Sheep for Shepherd Sunday. I am not doing the lectionary. Instead we are beginning the Purpose Driven Life series.

  33. penny thought

    IN biblical times I think shepherds spent more time with their sheep than farmers do nowadays

  34. Lorna: I know that, out West, the Basque emigre' shepherds tended sheep far from any human community; they literally lived in the midst of the sheep, in the wildnerness, for months and months at a time.

  35. Welcome, Connie+. It's good to get the scoop from somebody who has actually raised sheep!

  36. Okay... sheep actually are not as "dumb" or "stupid" as some of you think. Having immediate family who raise sheep as in 1000+ head of sheep... they are in it big time.

    Yes they DO know their primary caretaker, shepherd. Animals know who feeds them and recognizes them asap! They love my brother-in-law but really raise a fuss if I get beyond the fence. Much running and bleeting ensue...

    Sheep are also either well & healthy or dead. There is rarely a "sick sheep". Strange no? They either get their nourishment from the shepherd, innoculations, feed etc. or they die. That simple. Is this not also our life in Christ? We turn to him to be nourished or we die, that simple.

  37. I'm not preaching this weekend either. I don't know what the sr. pastor is doing (sigh). I'd stay away from sheep, but I do have one good sheep story from my time serving in rural South Dakota. I walked out of the church office one morning to find about a half dozen sheep standing in the church parking lot! (looking confused) (my interpretation). I knew who they belonged to -- she lived on the edge of town. So called her and let her know where they were. The closest I have come to being able to say my congregation was sheep.

  38. This is Rev Dave's wife . . .

    Not to get off the subject, but is it weird to find out by reading a blog that my new husband has a hidden talent of calling cows?

    Your insights are inspiring. I'm still trying to figure out where I'm being led to go with these passages, but I'm probably going with the sheep imaagery because living out here in sheep and cattle country the sheep imagery really preaches.

  39. Haugen's "Shepherd Me, O God," is also the Faith We Sing, the supplement to the United Methodist Hymnal, should anyone need to know that ...


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