Today is often called Good Shepherd Sunday. It is obvious why. Reverend Susan opened up the Mass with the appointed collect of the day...O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people...
The Psalm continues, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want
Finally, in the Gospel we hear Jesus say, I am the good shepherd. One of the many famous “I Am” statements found in John’s gospel.
A Shepherd. A reference that we see used through many books of the bible. One of the oldest occupations and one that the people could relate. A shepherd would spend so much time with their flock, that they could often tell one from another. Unusual markings, the way they walked, their voice, and many other characteristics. Like wise, the flock would know their shepherd. His or her voice or call was distinct enough that the sheep would know with whom to go. In fact, sheep would often recognize the face of their shepherd. The shepherd was charged with protecting the flock from predators and leading them to food, water, safety, and bringing the lost back into the fold.
Jesus speaks about the hired hand who is not the shepherd, the hired hand that does not care for the sheep, who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away. When we walk into church, we bring everything in our lives through those doors. Things in our lives that are not easy to share or those parts of ourselves that we hide. We bring our faults, struggles, failures, worries and hurts of the world. The wolves in our lives. As we feel defenseless and unsure, these wolves snatch our peace and scatter our lives. We feel lost. We seek out understanding and answers. Searching for ways to fix those hurts that we have and those pains that we see in the world. We easily hear and may even say ourselves, where is God? Where is God to protect? Where is my shepherd? Perhaps it is in that question. Where is God? Where is the good shepherd? As if we are suppose to be looking around for Him, searching for Him. We often forget - we do not find God, God finds us. It is not the sheep that searches for their shepherd. Jesus as the good shepherd seeks us out to find us when we are lost.
God knows each one of us. He knows our laughter, the way we talk, the things about ourselves that no one knows. When we are lost, He knows. He knows because the flock, the community, is just not the same. Something is missing. How do we know he is searching for us? It is because we hear his call, his distinct voice. Just as sheep recognizes the voice of their shepherd, we recognize Jesus’ call to us. That call sometimes comes quietly in our hearts, so quiet that we just have to stop what we are doing and listen. Other times the call comes loudly and literally smacks us on the head. A call that confronts us head-on. Sometimes we are too busy that call comes and goes unnoticed.
We are all children of God and that Jesus lives in each one of us. Since Jesus lives in each one of us, who do we shepherd? Our children, family, friends, those who seek public office, others that lead us? What about the stranger, the homeless, the sick, and those that are outcast or need help? Does the shepherd in us stir? Do we hear the cry of others being lost? Doesn’t that voice with in us call out to them? Do we let our distinct voice out so that they may hear it? That they may be found? What about those that have the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help. Do we call to them? Do we shepherd them as well?
We are called to be like Christ. We all serve as shepherds in the world and community around us. We heard in John’s first letter, “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” Not just talk about it, but to do something. To advocate, to protect, to revive, to lead, to share. To be living examples of Christ in our world. Powerful actions are not always large, sweeping, and news worthy. Sometimes the most powerful actions are small and unnoticed. The simple act of opening a door for someone. Saying thank you. Sharing the gifts we have with others. Gifts of love, time, companionship, a meal, a shoulder, our experience, a conversation, a smile, compassion, patience, and countless other gifts. When we share our gifts, we see God. We see God when those gifts are used for one another. Gifts that when shared are multiplied many times over and returned to us.
Yes, there is a great deal of struggle and pain in this world, but I do not think God asks any one of us to fix it all alone. God asks that we just help. To shepherd in the ways in which we are able
We see the wolves in the world. Do we run?
The Good Shepherd is risen indeed. The Good Shepherd is alive in each one of us.
Close your eyes. He calls to us. Do you hear it? How do we respond?