How does someone remembering your name after a brief introduction affect how you feel about them? What assumptions do you make about someone simply because they remember your name?
Following the Shepherd
There is something about us which wants to test everything. Take for example the question of whether sheep really do follow the shepherd’s voice. The conventional wisdom (in part because of of this week’s gospel lesson) is that sheep know the difference between their shepherd and other folks calling out to them. But is it true? A simple Google search of “sheep calling” quickly yields a series of videos offering some evidence that sheep do indeed respond to a particular person. In one humorous video three persons call to an absolutely apathetic herd with no visible effect, but when the shepherd steps up, you can see the sheep’s ears perk up far across a field. Then a tentative walk becomes a stampede to the fence and the waiting shepherd.
- What might account for the fact that sheep seem to respond to one particular person and ignore others?
- Think about why you respond move favorably to some people than others. How are you like the sheep?
Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
In this week’s gospel lesson John offers us a cluster of images around the theme of sheep and sheep herding: Jesus as a shepherd. Jesus as a gate. If we extended our reading we would see Jesus as shepherd in contrast to a hired hand and Jesus as the one who unites multiple folds into one flock. One has the image of John taking all the note cards he has of sheep-related images and chaining them together, piling them up one after another in his gospel. That makes for a rich passage, but it can also make things complicated if you are trying to connect them together into a coherent whole.
We can get into trouble if we push a metaphor too far or in the wrong direction. For example, shepherds shepherd for the ultimate purpose of shearing or slaughtering. That is probably not where John intends to take the image–the shepherd as the one who cares for the sheep in order to use them for personal gain. So what is John suggesting by this choice of image; what is he trying to tell us about Jesus? Good images (and this is a great one) lend themselves to many interpretations, here are just a few:
- At some deep level we belong to God and God is concerned about us.
- There is something about Jesus to which we instinctively respond when he is clearly made known to us.
- Jesus knows us individually and cares deeply about each person.
- Jesus shows us the way. He does not simply send us out as disciples; he models what faithfulness looks like.
- Jesus protects us from that which would destroy us.
- Jesus desires to take us from barren, dead end lives to a place of abundance where we can thrive and find joy.
- Which of the themes noted above feels the most like “good news” to you?
- What other interpretations would you add to the images of shepherd and sheep gate?
- This passage is one of a series of “I am” sayings of Jesus. What is another image which would describe your understanding of Jesus and what he offers us? Jesus is like…Why?
Shepherd Me, O God (ELW 780) is a hymnic setting of Psalm 23, which accompanies John 10 in the lectionary this week. It offers an active image of shepherding, of God taking us to an abundant place. Read the hymn (sing it if you have the musical support) and then imagine what that abundant place would look like for you. Using colored pencils or crayons draw what that place looks like and then share your picture with a partner or the whole group.
Lord, the truth is that I have never seen a shepherd in the flesh; that world seems far away from me. But I know what it feels like to be vulnerable and lost. I know how much I long to be more than a face in the crowd and valued in all my weird uniqueness. I know how hungry I am for purpose and hope. So be my shepherd and draw me near to you. Open my ears to hear your call and respond in trust. Amen.