This week, we are taking a break from Easter Stories to focus on Jesus being our Good Shepherd.  Each year, on the forth Sunday after Easter, in the middle of the liturgical season of Easter, we focus on Jesus being the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Shepherd and we are the sheep….The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. Hear this reading of the words of Jesus as they are found in John chapter 10 verses one through ten:

Proclamation of the Scripture            John 10: 1-10                       

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Here ends this reading of the Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

Message                              Powerful Witness

            Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a very beloved image for our Savior. Many of the UCC churches in Eastern Pennsylvania have stained glass images referring to this well-known metaphor.  Jesus stands in the center of the glass, cradling a sheep in his arm and with a shepherd crook in his other hand. In our window, Jesus is dressed very elegantly in robes – I somehow doubt first century shepherds wore pristine robes. But, despite the clothing being a little mismatched, Jesus is depicted as a shepherd caring for his sheep – he seeks us when we are lost, he feeds us when we are hungry, he protects us from robbers and predators.

            Sheep are also pretty bad at following directions. They are easily led astray by others. They get lost. They get tangled in bushes. They aren’t good at protecting themselves.

            We are also experts at going astray when it comes to our faith. We have lots and lots of distractions, all of the time: 18,000 activities to drive our kids to, the external pressures on us to cook and eat healthy meals, and exercise, and read challenging books, and clean our houses, and excel at our professional jobs, and visit our relatives, and attend all of our meetings, and keep up with our friends. And, we are not only victims of external pressures, but we distract ourselves – we binge watch shows on our 18 streaming services, or play video games all night long, or drink too much, or sleep through our doctor’s appointments.

            Our distractions are like the bandits and robbers in today’s reading – they steal our time, our energy, and our attention.

            The midst of all of life’s distractions, we are invited to lean on Jesus. Jesus is the gate for the sheep – us! Jesus is our entry point into the Christian faith and is the source of our salvation.  One of most important aspects of the shepherd metaphor is that Jesus is the source of rest for us. God is watching over us and we can relax. We don’t have to go it alone. Nothing in our lives happens in isolation because God is with us.  

            Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death – even though we are surrounded by ugly and terrible and yucky situations and people – we should fear not because God is with us. God uses God’s rod and staff to comfort us – God uses God’s Holy Spirit and words of comfort in the Bible to comfort us.  God listens to us when we pray and sends us messages thorough the words of others and through the situations that occur in our lives. We are not alone – God is with us.

            The 23rd Psalm may only be six verses long, and therefore short enough to easily memorize. But, it is our best known section of scripture because of what is tells us about God. Let’s say the words of the 23rd Psalm together and remember that nothing we do is done without the notice and care of God, and our loving Savior Jesus.

            Say the words with me:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Let us take heart that we are not alone, God is always here to listen to us, support us, and care for us. Amen.