you know your sheep by name
and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.
Guide us by your voice,
that we may walk in certainty and security
to the joyous feast prepared in your house,
were we celebrate with you forever. Amen.
It's the fourth Sunday of Easter, and that brings us Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Or wait, Jesus is the Lamb. Confused anyone?
This year's Good Shepherd Sunday gospel finds Jesus in the temple precincts where he is asked point blank, "Are you the Messiah?" His answer was no doubt unsatisfactory to that particular audience and is still enigmatic in some ways; nonetheless it has provided solace for countless Christians over the centuries, and the image of Jesus as the shepherd is one that is familiar to all. Are you hearing the shepherd's voice as you prepare to preach?
We continue on our Eastertide trek through Revelation as well where we find Jesus the Lamb enthroned
and surrounded by angels and throngs of the faithful robed in white who have "come through their ordeal" and been washed in the blood of the lamb. It's not your traditional pastoral scene, but the promise of the Lamb who will be the shepherd is reassuring none the less:
"They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat; 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."
The reading from Acts provides an alternative to sheep and shepherd imagery as we find Peter in Joppa where he raises the faithful Tabitha from the dead, demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit invested in Jesus' disciples. What does this story promise us today, in a culture perhaps more skeptical of such things?
Many of us struggle with the familiarity of the Good Shepherd. Are you finding fresh inspiration? Are you off lectionary? Share your questions, frustrations and inspirations with us. Sometimes it takes a village to write a sermon, so to speak!
Readings may be found here or here