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April 21, 2013–Sheep and Shepherd

Contributed by Scott Moore, Erfurt, Germany


Warm-up Question

What kind of voice do you like to listen to?

Sheep and Shepherd

Sheep are putting lawnmowers out of work. The mayor of Paris, France, Bertrand Delanoë, is working to make the city a little more “green” and ecologically friendly by using four black sheep from the South West of France. It is called “eco-grazing.”  Their job is to eat the grass in front of Paris’ Municipal Archives. They are kept behind a solar-powered electric fence.

The sheep are drawing attention to the archives, which is something the director, was hoping for. Originally, the director of the archives, Agnès Masson, wanted to get a donkey or some other animal but finally accepted the four sheep. This is a project that appears to be great for the environment and an interesting attempt to raise awareness to a cultural/historical resource in a neighborhood of Paris that does not have any museums or cultural institutions.


Discussion Questions

  • Would you let a sheep mow your lawn?
  • What chores do you have to do that you wish an animal could do? Which animal could do it?
  • What other natural ways could you get “chores” done?
  • Could you imagine sheep eco-grazing the lawn around your school or your city hall or state capital?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 21, 2013 (Fourth Sunday of Easter)

Acts 9:36-43

Revelation 7:9-17

John 10:22-30

(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 C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

shutterstock_69755869editThis Sunday in the church year is often referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The readings always have something to do with God and Jesus and followers as sheep. In this gospel text, there are a couple of elements that call out for our attention. One of them is the part of the story that has some tension in it. Jesus is put on the spot by Jewish believers at the temple. They want to know if he really is the Messiah. They pressure him to tell them. Jesus basically says, “You missed it. I’ve performed miracles, I’ve healed, I’ve taught and you still don’t get it. You’re not going to get it now no matter what I say.” They aren’t listening. They can’t hear his voice. It is then that Jesus changes the direction away from their expectations and toward God’s reality. God takes care of the sheep. God the Father and, in this case, God’s Son are in the sheep caring business together. And, this business is about not losing sheep.

When we experience difficult times, we look to words of comfort that tell us how much God loves us. We cherish the image of God and Jesus as loving shepherds protecting us sheep. Sometimes, however, we are just like the religious leaders in this text. We place demands on God. We want God to just “speak plainly” to us. We want to know God is with us. We want to know that Jesus the Messiah is who we think he is. But, just as Jesus doesn’t let himself get put into a box and try to prove himself out of it, God cannot be put into a box. God is bigger than our wants, yet God cares for us all the same.

Sometimes we believe we hear the voice of God in some form. Sometimes we want proof. This is what it is like to live as followers of the Risen Christ. It is certainty in the midst of uncertainty. The good news is that both Father and Son are in a divine community concerned about us. We have the stories of the faith in Scripture and we have the stories of the faith in our lives today. We are encouraged to trust in what have and to work at being open to God’s presence in our lives. We are also promised eternal life as a result in participating in God.

Discussion Questions

  •  When have you asked for someone to speak plainly and explain something to you again?
  • When have you felt like you wanted God/Jesus to prove something to you?
  • When have you felt lost and wanted God to find you and bring you back into the fold?
  • What kind of proofs have you expected from God/Jesus?
  • When do you find it difficult to listen?

Activity Suggestion

Shepherd Whispers— This is the game “Simon Says” but with the phrase “Shepherd Whispers” instead. The leader (Shepherd) gives commands for the sheep to follow but whispered so the sheep have to strain to hear the Shepherd’s voice. But they only follow when the Shepherd says “Shepherd Whispers X”, “Shepherd Whispers Y”. If the Shepherd doesn’t say/whisper it, then the sheep shouldn’t do it. Those that miss a command are “out”…the twist is at the end, the Shepherd says, “Shepherd Whispers, all are welcome, all are mine, all God’s sheep are loved.”  A variation for this game would be to do the activity with eyes closed or using a blindfold

Closing Prayer

Loving God, you held us close when we were in pain and you sought us out when we were lost. Make your presence known to us now. Speak to us plainly. Keep us in the fold of your loving embrace. We ask this in the name of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Amen

May 11-17, 2011–Who’s In and Who’s Out?


Contributed by John Hougen, Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Melrose Park, PA

Warm-up Question

If your house of worship had a bouncer, and the bouncer was Jesus, would he let you in? Why or why not?

Who’s In and Who’s Out

One of the common issues faced by groups of friends and organizations is deciding who’s in and who’s out. Most groups of friends form without consciously deciding why some are in and some are outside the group: it seems to “just happen.” On the other hand, fraternities and sororities vote to include or exclude each prospective member. Honor societies and professional organizations develop criteria that must be met for membership.

What about Christian congregations and ministries? A few have strict criteria for membership, but most eagerly welcome all comers. When newcomers show up, the delicate process of integrating them begins. It’s an art. It doesn’t “just happen.” Each newcomer changes the dynamics of an existing group. A newcomer with a great sense of humor and keen insights can lift the morale of an existing group. A newcomer who can’t keep a secret can change a group from one in which personal problems are shared and resolved to one in which personal problems are kept private. To bring someone from the outside into a Christian group involves negotiating differences in personalities, perspectives, preferences, beliefs, interests, and “style.”

Discussion Questions

  • Discuss Bible stories in which Jesus welcomed a newcomer into his group of followers. How did Jesus practice the art of welcoming?
  • Think about the congregation or ministry group to which you belong. Are there formal requirements for membership or participation? What are the unwritten “requirements” a newcomer must follow to fit in?
  • Can you remember a time when your congregation or ministry group made adjustments in its usual way of doing things to make newcomers feel welcome?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 15, 2011 (Fourth Sunday of Easter)

Acts 2:42–47

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:19–25

John 10:1–10

(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 C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Read John 10: 1 – 10 slowly. This is one of those Bible passages that can be very confusing. Commentaries reveal that knowing Greek (the original language of the text) and examining early manuscripts will not make the text more understandable. In verse one, we might think Jesus is the gate. That is confirmed in both verses seven and nine where Jesus is quoted as saying “I am the gate.” But, in verse two, we might conclude Jesus is the shepherd. And, sure enough, in verse eleven of John 10, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” However, if Jesus is the gate and / or the shepherd, then who is the gatekeeper? And, what about those thieves and bandits? Who are they? Also, it is not clear whether the point of this passage is that Christians should follow Jesus out into the world or if those who enter the Kingdom must rely on Jesus to get in. In verses three through five, the sheep are being led out of the sheepfold. Verse 9 refers to sheep which “come in and go out.”

Is Jesus the gate, the gatekeeper, the shepherd, or all three? Are the sheep going out or in or both? Whew! A lot of questions come up in this short passage. It is reassuring to read that we are not the only ones to wonder what this means. Verse 6 says, “Jesus used this figure of speech…, but (his hearers) did not understand what he was saying to them.”

Let’s find our place in the text and go from there. You and I are among the sheep. That’s clear. It also is clear that the sheep will be safe with their shepherd but not with thieves and bandits. The Good Shepherd is Jesus (or perhaps a faithful follower of Jesus in a leadership position). Thieves and bandits are those who lead the sheep away from Jesus. This text and other Bible passages point to these conclusions: e.g. John 10: 11ff, Jeremiah 23: 1-4, 1 Peter 2:19–25, and the  Psalm 23.

Among the “thieves and bandits” who might lead us astray are those who try to convince us that we’re not good enough to be part of Jesus’ flock. Sometimes such “thieves and bandits” are self-righteous people of faith who look down on us because we don’t meet their standards for “true believers.” Sometimes authority figures, such as parents and teachers, crush our sense of self-worth. And, some of us have done really bad things. No matter how often we hear that God forgives us, we can’t forgive ourselves and, in effect, decide that God’s love for sinners does not apply in our specific case.

But, in this passage, Jesus says it is not the quality of the sheep but rather the inclusiveness of the Shepherd / gatekeeper that decides who is in the flock. Verse 9: “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Later in the chapter, Jesus’ inclusiveness is underscored when he says, (verse 16) “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Even if we feel we don’t belong to Jesus, Jesus reaches out to us and promises inclusion.

Discussion Questions

  • If Jesus includes you and me, who is excluded?
  • Do you know anyone who feels they are not good enough to be one of Jesus’ followers? How could you demonstrate or explain to such a person that Jesus wants to include them?
  • Do you think people from faith traditions that are not Christian are among those who will become “one flock” (John 10: 16)? If so, should we try to convince them to become Christians? Should we trust that Jesus loves and accepts them as they are? Should we believe that, eventually, Jesus will, in His own way, bring them to Himself?

Activity Suggestions

  • With others in your congregation or ministry group, recall times when you were newcomers. Ask: what obstacles were experienced as you tried to become part of a group? And, what made you feel most welcome? Develop a strategy for welcoming newcomers that incorporates insights from your discussion.
  • Bring together representatives from several religious traditions and compare how new members are integrated into your respective communities.

Closing Prayer

Good Shepherd, help us to trust that you include us in your flock. Call us in to safety and out for nourishment and service. Give us generous hearts, open minds, and holy wisdom so that we might integrate into our communities all whom you send our way. Amen.

January 12-18, 2011–Season of the Lamb

Contributed by Scott Moore, Erfurt, Germany

Warm-up Question

Would you ever get your head shaved?

Season of the Lamb

The competition season in lamb and sheep shearing resumes after a six-week break during the heaviest season in wool production. At the time this article appears Cam Ferguson will have already competed in New Zealand’s National Lambs Championships and will have tried to break a record by shearing 736 lambs in eight hours. That will be an increase of seven lambs an hour faster than his previous time to date. If he can complete that he will break the record set by Ivan Scott of Ireland two years ago.

Ferguson, who is 27 years old, won the World Championships in Wales last July. He has a lot going on in few days: a national championship, a world record attempt, and a Speedshear (which is a quick version of the sport). Of course he wouldn’t think of missing a Speedshear, in which he has won over 60 titles, “I still do the shows. That’s what I do.”

Aside from this competition, there are two others going on this weekend in a country that loves its lambs and sheep—and loves to shear them, as well.

Not that everyone thinks such competitions are good things. There are many animal rights groups, which complain that the wool industry is not a kind one.  They especially have problems with competitions where the only thing that matters is how fast a human can remove the wool of a sheep or lamb. Those in the wool industry argue that the shearing process does not hurt the animals at all.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you find intriguing about this kind of competition?
  • What other competition would you compare this to?
  • What materials are you wearing right now? Do you know how and where they are made?  What might be their cost to the environment, animals,  and people?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 16, 2011 (Second Sunday after Epiphany)

Isaiah 49:1-7

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

John 1:29-42

(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 C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

“Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Those are John the Baptist’s words when he sees Jesus. The metaphor of all metaphors. I imagine there were faithful Jewish followers of God looking around wondering, “Huh? What does John the Baptist mean? How can this man be the Lamb of God? And, he takes away the sin of the world? Well, then why are we here doing this baptism of repentance thing?”

Jewish believers at that time certainly knew what significance a lamb had. Every year at Passover (see links below), a pure or unblemished lamb was sacrificed in remembrance of God freeing the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. At the original Passover, each family slaughtered a lamb and the blood was smeared on the doorposts Exodus 12).  The Angel of Death “passes over” those who have the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. They are saved from death by the blood of the lamb.

Naming Jesus the Lamb of God means God has given this pure lamb as a sacrifice to save the world from sin and death. This is why it is important for John the Gospel writer to share this story with us. Early in John’s Gospel we are shown the stakes.  Jesus is revealed not only as the Word made flesh (John chapter 1), but also as the Lamb of God. This helps us see everything Jesus says and does in a particular light.

Jesus is the one who has been sent from above to save the world. Because of the blood of the lamb (Jesus), death will have no power over us. This is pretty heavy stuff, all in one statement by John the Baptist. For two thousand years, people have followed, like those first disciples, wanting to see who this Jesus-Lamb really is. Not only have they followed and seen; they have also dragged others to Jesus saying, “Come and see.”

Discussion Questions

  • Aside from the metaphor of“lamb,” what other symbols or metaphors do you know for Jesus? (Way, Truth, Life, Door, etc.)
  • How does using a symbol or metaphor for Jesus help us understand him better or deeper?
  • When do we proclaim Jesus as the Lamb of God (hint: think about the communion liturgy)?
  • How do you understand Jesus as Lamb of God in Holy Communion/Eucharist?
  • John the Baptist points to Christ and says, “Here is the Lamb of God.” In this passage, new followers of Jesus get others and say, “Come and see.”  How do you “point” to Christ and say, “Come and see?”

Activity Suggestions

Creating Metaphors for Jesus:

A metaphor is when two things (usually two nouns) are brought together in such a way that new “idea” or “reality” is created. A new way of seeing both things is born. The attributes of each thing are put onto the other.Creating metaphors is not always easy but often challenges us to see things in new and fruitful ways.  Complete the following sentence:

 “Jesus is…”

 Off limits are adjectives (Jesus is nice, strong, good, kind, tall) and similes (Jesus is like something…like a fresh breeze or a loving mother).  Similes are close to metaphors but use “like” or “as” to make the comparison.  They don’t create the same interesting tension.   Examples of metaphors:  John is the sunshine in our family. Mary is a bridge between two cultures.

Engaging the Visual Arts

Find pictures of Jesus portrayed as the Lamb of God in art.  Take time to look at the depiction and talk about it. You can also compare and contrast different versions.  Here are two links to begin with (there are many others and these examples carry no thelogical or commercial endorement of the sites):

Closing Prayer

God of mercy and life, you saved your chosen people Israel from slavery and death. You sent Jesus to the world so that all might be freed from sin and death and have eternal life. Help us to see Jesus in the world around us so that we can point to him. Give us the courage and the excitement to share what we have seen. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Amen

June 30-July 6–Sheep and Wolves

Contributed by R. Paul Henrickson, Chaplain and Dean of the Chapel, Roanoke College, Salem, VA

Warm-up Question

Go around the group and respond to the following:

  • Is the world more populated by sheep or wolves?
  • Would you rather be a sheep or a wolf?
  • Name a sheep; name a wolf.
  • Are Christians among the sheep or the wolves?
  • Does Christianity have any enemies?

Sheep and Wolves

I write this on June 21, 2010.  I am reminded by the New York Times, that on this day in 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared in Philadelphia, Miss. Their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam six weeks later. Eight members of the Ku Klux Klan went to prison on federal conspiracy charges; none served more than six years.  In our day, working for justice continues to have its dangerous side, however, one is more likely to be threatened with the weapon of apathy rather than with a club or a gun.

Jesus warns his disciples:  “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”

In our present day, there is a full scale attack on Christianity, led by some who hold to the assumption that God does not matter and that religion is for those who have become thoughtlessly captive to “memes” .  Richard Dawkins,  who coined this word for a cultural idea, symbol, or practice goes on to say: “I doubt that religion can survive deep understanding. The shallows are its natural habitat.”

Some writers have begun to describe Europe as a “post-Christian” society.  In our own country estimates about how many people attend worship suggest that less than 22% of Americans attend worship each week. ( Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 44, Number 3, September 2005 , pp. 307-322)  Among young adults (18-29), 72% say that they are “spiritual, but not religious.”  In this group, 65% never or rarely attend worship services.  (

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been threatened because of your Christian faith?
  • What hinders us from proclaiming the Gospel story?
  • Are we headed into a “post-Christian” age?
  • Why do you think fewer people call themselves “believers?”
  • Do you know people who say the are “spiritual but not religious?”

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, July 4, 2010 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)

Isaiah 66:10-14

Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

(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 C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

There are a few essays that I read over every three months or so to keep me from grazing too far from the Word.  When my preaching has become rather predictable (or dry), I read Stanley Hauerwas’ article: “Preaching As Though We Had Enemies.”  In this essay he writes, “Most of us do not go to church because we are seeking a safe haven from our enemies; we go to church to be assured we have no enemies.”

In the text for this week, Jesus assures us that speaking the Gospel will be a dangerous calling.  “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”  Does that cause any anxiety in your heart?  Perhaps our faith has become too tame, too domesticated to generate a real threat to those who would be our enemies.  Perhaps the weapon of apathy does not warrant a defensive response.

Imagine what Sunday morning worship be like if we arrived as those who had been wounded in the spiritual battle.  There would be prayers of comfort, songs of confident praise, a message of courage and hope, mutual conversation and consolation among the faithful, and a meal of bread and wine – rations for the week ahead.

Our own Lutheran Church (ELCA), is losing more than 200 members EACH DAY.   This is a crisis of faith and evangelism; the wolves seem to be winning the numbers game.

So, fellow sheep, what are we called to do?  Prayer followed by action; songs followed by commitment, preaching that inspires and challenges; conversation that supports and encourages – these will be the marks of the flock who wander out among the wolves.  By the power of Jesus Christ, we will not fail.

Discussion Questions

  • How might a local parish refocus its ministry as “sheep among the wolves?”
  • Where do “the sheep” get fed and protected?
  • What is the scariest “wolf” in your world?
  • What “wolf” most threatens the ministry of the church?

Activity Suggestions

  • Role play an encounter with a “spiritual, but not religious” friend
  • Make a contract with the group to invite one person to worship next Sunday
  • Watch the first 10 minutes of the evening news and imagine how people of faith might react to the stories
  • Watch the following video on YouTube:

Closing Prayer

In the name of Jesus Christ we pray…Lord of Life, give us the courage to speak your word in a world of unbelief.  When we would rather “play it safe,” startle us to faith; when we get bored and apathetic, astonish us with grace; when we fear that we are too weak to confront the wolves, give us courage. Help us to be fed by your word this day.   Amen

April 29-May 6, 2009 – Required accessory: a knife for butchering sheep

Contributed by Pastor Claudia Bergmann
Eisleben, Germany

Warm-up Question: Have you ever wanted to be a pageant queen or king?
“It’s not just a beauty pageant and traveling. It’s not just waving. It’s a whole lot more than that,” says Audra Ettsity Platero who won the Miss Navajo pageant and represented the Navajo Nation in 1995-1996. And it is not just about butchering sheep. According to the Miss Navajo Nation Council, the Navajo look for a young woman to become the role model and representative for Navajo culture. The lucky winner receives a salaried position with the Navajo Nation that includes health benefits and a furnished tribal apartment, as well as a scholarship for her future education. In return, she will have to display leadership as Goodwill Ambassador and exemplify the character of First Woman, White Shell Woman, and Changing Woman.

How does one become Miss Navajo Nation? The pageant is open to all enrolled female members of the Navajo Nation between the ages of 18 and 25. Contestants must be unmarried, possess a high school diploma or GED, and speak fluently both Navajo and English. They must also turn in an essay and a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Contributions I Would Make as the New Miss Navajo Nation.” Over the course of several days the contestants must prove their Navajo knowledge and skills in various competitions. Skills tested include bread making, butchering sheep, grinding corn, dancing, crafts, storytelling, public speaking, and fluency in Navajo government and history. One skill or talent must be demonstrated entirely in English, and one entirely in Navajo. For the evening gown competition, contestants are asked to pick one conservative contemporary gown and one traditional gown.

The Miss Navajo Nation pageant received nationwide attention when Billy Luther’s documentary “Miss Navajo” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005, and has since aired on PBS and numerous independent movie theaters. Luther’s intention was not to make a film about Navajo women or about inner beauty. He wanted to make a film about a beauty pageant contestant. As it turns out, though, his work became an inspiration for young girls who are in search of identity and a film about the importance of cultural preservation and the surprising role a beauty pageant can serve. Says Billy Luther, “Sometimes, as in life, the winners aren’t always the winners and the losers aren’t always the losers.”

The current Miss Navajo Nation is Yolanda Charley (photo on left), a young woman who put college on hold to take care of her grandfather in Chichchiltah, NM.

Discussion Questions
  • The current Miss America contestants must compete in the following disciplines: Artistic Expression (Talent), Presentation and Community Achievement (Interview), Presence and Poise (Evening Wear), Lifestyle and Fitness (Swimsuit), Peer Respect and Leadership, Knowledge and Understanding. Compare these to the skills a Miss Navajo Nation contestant needs to display. Which set of skills do you find more helpful for modern life? Why?
  • Why do you think so many people are interested in becoming famous?
  • What are the pros and cons about being a star or celebrity?
  • What makes people beautiful?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 3, 2009.
(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.

Gospel Reflection

Do you like being compared to sheep? In our culture, sheep are considered stupid herd animals that do not display their own will. They follow wherever the sheep ahead of them walk. They graze on whatever the sheep next to them eats. They are chased around by a shepherd and some dogs. And they end up being butchered. Not much to the life of a sheep, is there?

Yet, both the Bible and Christian tradition use the image of sheep and shepherd as a positive one. In the catacombs of Rome, in graves where early Christians were buried, we have beautiful mosaics depicting Jesus as the good shepherd. And is there a Sunday school room without a picture of the same good shepherd Jesus pinned to the wall?

The reason why Christianity does not have a problem with this image is the fact that it is a metaphor or figurative language. Imagine that you want to express the following things:

  • We are many; God is one
  • We sometimes lose our way in life, but God helps us to find it again
  • We sometimes get in trouble, but God bails us out
Now, how would you express these three facts without actually listing them? You would have to find a story or an image (or what we call a metaphor). In modern life, the image of a coach of a sports team might be an example of how this metaphor could work: a sports team has one coach only who sets his players straight and helps them out when they get in trouble. Similarly, the Bible used the image of shepherd and sheep. It did not intend to say that we are stupid herd animals. Instead, it wanted to express that when we are weak we can count on a strong divine leader to help us.

John 10:11-18 is a case in point. Here, the metaphor of the good shepherd explains that Jesus and his people have a strong relationship with each other. This good shepherd would even give his life for his sheep (and he actually did). There are also other shepherds who go “sheep-stealing” and might want to lead us astray. But only with our one divine shepherd — Jesus — will we gain life. Everyone from John’s cultural context understood what he meant by that metaphor because they were familiar with the life of sheep and shepherds. The metaphor actually made the points that John wanted to get across more memorable. If you have an image or a story in the back of your mind, you don’t forget the facts.

Being a sheep in the context of this biblical metaphor is not so bad after all. Our shepherd is not a bossy one who pushes us around for no good reason. He holds back most of the time and lets us nibble on the grass here and there. Only sometimes, when we are in trouble, he takes leadership and reigns us in. Even the smartest sheep and the smartest people need this kind of guidance. Isn’t it comforting to know that somebody will catch us if we trip and are in danger of falling down a rocky slope? This is what our divine shepherd does.

Discussion Questions

  • Shepherd and sheep, coach and sports team… can you think of other images or metaphors that convey what points 1-3 are supposed to express?
  • Why does the Bible need to use metaphor and story?
  • Where do we use metaphor in modern life?
  • What makes people beautiful in the eyes of our divine shepherd?

Activity Suggestions

1. The metaphor in the biblical text
Have Bibles or printouts of Ezekiel 34:1-16 and John 10:11-18 ready. Ask your group to read both texts and make two lists on a large sheet of paper. On the one side, have them list all the characteristics of a good shepherd that they can find. On the other side, list all the characteristics of a bad, negligent, or uncaring shepherd. If your group is too large, split them up.

Then, ask them what modern metaphor would fit these characteristics. Who, in our modern times, is like the good shepherd, who is like the bad shepherd? Have them discuss whether finding a modern metaphor for these characteristics would help people understand the text better.

2. The metaphor in art
In preparation for this, print out as many images of the Good Shepherd as you can. The art index of can be a starting point. Share these images with your group and ask them, which ones they find most appropriate for the way Jesus is depicted in John 10:11-18. Discuss with them the pros and cons of finding other, seemingly unusual images for the Good Shepherd… images that would communicate well in 2009.

3. Update a psalm
Psalm 23 uses the shepherd metaphor in verses 1-4. Then, after comparing God to a shepherd caring for his sheep, it switches metaphors and compares God to a loving and caring host in verse 5.

Have your students discuss what verses 1-4 want to express and ask them to write these points down line by line. Then, ask them to find different, more modern, metaphors that convey the same message. What would the psalm sound like if it were updated? If your students come up with more than one option, have them update the psalm in small groups. Then, compare the results and discuss what they like and dislike about each option.

4. Metaphor becomes alive
In preparation for this activity, ask members of your congregation what Psalm 23 means to them and whether they would be willing to share their stories with your youth group. Make sure that you provide a comfortable and safe atmosphere for the people who are willing to share these very personal stories. Don’t ask your students to comment on what they have heard but invite them to share stories from their lives where a biblical text became important to them.

Closing Prayer

Simply pray Psalm 23 together.