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Good Shepherd Sunday

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Psalm 23

Dominus regit me
The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel

John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one."

The Sermon

Shepherd Sunday

When I put together a sermon, I often spend little time on the Psalm reading. It is a failing of mine and I apologize for that. This reading of the 23rd Psalm is so well known and loved isn't it. At bible study last Tuesday we spent some time reflecting on the power and meaning of it. It brought back memories to me of my time studying to be a chaplain at Methodist Hospital. When I was on duty I would frequently be paged when someone was near death. It was always a little difficult for me because I did not have any history with the person on his or her deathbed or with the family who were gathered around the room.

What I did find was that reciting the 23rd Psalm really spoke in a universal sense to the dying as well as giving comfort to the grieving. It gives hope to all of us. It brings to the worshiper the image of being led to a quiet soothing place where there is no fear and there is only the comfort of the presence of God. In God's presence there is eternal joy, peace and rest.

It is no wonder that the 23rd Psalm is well known and loved by so many.
Our Gospel reading brings with it the imagery of a shepherd as well. In this reading Jesus explains that his relationship is like that of a shepherd. A shepherd knows the names of each of his sheep and the sheep come when they are called. He tells us frequently that God is not someone who stays in the distance and watches the world unfold. God is aware of every hair on your head. God knows each of us intimately. God is aware of every breath and when our breathing ends.

At the end of this reading Jesus makes a very profound statement. He says, “The father and I are one.” He is saying that God the Father is bound as one with Jesus. There is no doubt what Jesus is telling them here. What is the reaction of the Jews in this reading. If you read a little farther in John you see their reaction is to try and stone him.

I think that no matter what Jesus did they would have wanted to stone him. He rightly says he knows who his followers are and he will take care of them even if it means losing his life.

So, fellow sheep. I encourage you to listen to the shepherd's voice and follow him where he leads you.

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