Fourth Sunday of Easter Psalm 23 April 25, 2021

While Running from the Shepherd, I fell into his arms.

Friends of ours in Ohio had a farm.  One of the things they did was to raise sheep.  They were amazed at what they discovered about sheep.  Sheep are very strong willed and often fight with each other.  If there is a weak sheep in their midst, they will not let them get to the feed trough and the animal eventually dies of starvation.

It is easy for sheep to get lost.  While they are the safest in a flock without a shepherd and a shepherd dog to guide them, they do not stay together and are easy prey for predators.

Shepherding is one of the world’s oldest occupations.  It first started in the Mid-east.  A true shepherd knows the name of every one of their sheep.  Each day they lead them to a new pasture.  If they stay in one place the sheep eat the grass right down to the roots.

If the flock is attacked, the shepherd is expected to do everything in his power to protect the flock, even to laying down his life.  If a sheep dies while under the shepherd’s care, the shepherd is expected to bring back the dead carcass.

Now there are people who are hired to take care of the sheep, but if danger comes, they run off and are never heard from again.

So, you can see why Jesus chose the shepherd image as his role.  He was sent from his father to bring the flock of people together to be guided to places where they could rest.  Sheep will only drink water that is still.  So, an important job of the shepherd is to find those quiet pools.

I would like to think that when we pray and study the scripture and meditate, Jesus is leading us to cool ponds of reflection and rest.

Life is a journey, not a destination.  Jesus through the power of the Spirit, the Scripture and other members of the church family leads us through life.  One of the greatest gifts I have received was the love and guidance of the church I attended as a child.  My Sunday School teachers and pastors led the way.  It was at church that the challenge of being a parish pastor was first presented to me.  Being asked both honored and scared me, but it was there I first heard the call.

This journey is sometimes difficult.  While I did extremely well in my studies through hIgh school, I almost flunked out of college when I joined a fraternity and discovered wine, women, and song.  Yet my advisor was a Methodist Pastor who guided me and told me I had to stop messing around.  What my parents were doing with their life is their business, it is time to take responsibility for my own.

My wife’s parents were deeply committed Christians.  After it become clear to them that one day Ann and I would be getting married they parented me.  Their pastor in Connecticut took me under his wing, let me stay at the parsonage during the summer, and called on me to assist him in leading worship, and covering for him when he went on vacation.

Since then, I have buried Ann’s parents, and my own.  I have presided over the funerals of many people who had become very close to me.

There will be a day when Ann or I die first.  Whoever is left will need to shepherd to give them a place to cry and grieve and eventually be able to feel the joy of resurrection.

What are some of the dark places the Good Shepherd has led you through?

Each Sunday we come to the Lord’s table for life, forgiveness, and salvation to be fed with Christ himself to strengthen us for life’s journey this week.

We were anointed with oil like a monarch on the day of our baptism to remind us always we are God’s children; we are God’s sheep.

Realistically we need to recognize that just like sheep we are hardheaded, redeemed sinners.  How many times have we said no to God’s call to guide us? Sometimes I have forgotten all together to prayer, and then when I do it is to beg God to get me out of the mess, I have gotten myself.

I am so pleased that we have been able to reopen the church and practice safe hygiene to worship together.  When we gather, we are responding to the shepherd’s call to trust, and follow him.

 

Yes, we have God who truly loves us; who seeks us out even when we are running away from his presence.  There are times when his shepherding care is so powerful that while we