The coming Sunday is often called Good Shepherd Sunday; the subject of many a painting and stained glass window. As urbanites of the twenty-first century, we are likely to miss the complexities of the image--especially as Jesus is often depicted with blue eyes, golden hair embracing a lamb!
Yet Jesus is about returning us to center, about helping us know how we should be and where we should be. In his living and teaching he directs us towards the life God would have each of us live. He describes himself as the good shepherd. Shepherding was harsh and dangerous work protecting the flock from wolves and thieves, finding good pasture, rescuing the lost or injured, binding up wounds, treating disease, and birthing lambs. A twenty-four hour day, seven days a week job. Abandonment at any point was not an option. To be a good shepherd meant to care enough to risk ones own well-being, even one’s life, on behalf of the flock. To be a good shepherd meant being so familiar with the sheep that the sheep themselves could recognize the voice of their shepherd. To be a good shepherd was to experience a bottomless devotion to and desire for the good of all sheep no matter what the cost.
Jesus tells us he is that shepherd. We are his sheep. It is clear. Learn the voice of the shepherd. If we know our shepherd, we need have no fear. The shepherd will care for us, feed us, guide us, and protect us. All the rest of our living can be accomplished in that light – be it obligations or celebrations, prosperity or adversity, sickness or health, managing our resources, achieving dreams or dealing with failures. We are a blessed people because we have a good shepherd who is to be trusted.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves