This coming fourth Sunday of Easter has been designated as Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel reading for the day, John 10:1-10, tells of Christ as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. The psalm for Sunday is Psalm 23 which also uses shepherd imagery. Jesus as our Good Shepherd is a beloved image for many of us. At Zion UCC, Fireside, in Bellevue, OH, the first church I served, the stained glass window in the front of the chancel is of the Good Shepherd with his sheep. Every Sunday worshippers have that window to look at as their focus. In fact, in every church I’ve served or attended, I’ve noticed a Good Shepherd picture of one kind or another.
At home I have a framed color photograph of the Good Shepherd stained glass window from the church I grew up in, First UCC, Sandusky. I can remember sitting in worship there as a child and always favoring that window above the other six. I may have identified with the lamb that Jesus carried on his shoulder, thinking of the safe feeling I had when my father carried me half-asleep from the car into the house after returning home in the evening from an outing.
Yes, the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd, as we are called to see him in light of the familiar 23rd Psalm, and in our gospel lesson, is familiar and one to which I would imagine many of us have clung in times when we have very much needed reassurance and comfort. God knows, literally, that as we live our lives, events occur that make us long for green pastures rather than dried up desert places, still waters rather than storms in which we seem to be sinking, restored souls instead of inner emptiness, right paths when we cannot see our own way, Christ’s comforting presence in the darkest valley, and the assurance of a “forever” home where there is abundance, goodness, and mercy. No, there is no mystery about why Psalm 23 is so beloved!
And so, as we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic “valley of the shadow of death” let’s remember who leads us, comforts us, and takes away our fear. We are not alone, for the psalmist says, “The Lord is my Shepherd”. We claim the shepherd as our own and he claims us as his own. Thanks be to God for the ways this ancient psalm speaks to life as we’re living it today.
May God bless you and keep you safe.
In Christ’s love,