5:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
2 He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
3 He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.
4 Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
5 You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim.
6 I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.
John 10:1-16 Jesus, the Good Shepherd
10 1Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” 6 Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he meant.
7 So Jesus said again, “I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. 8All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever comes in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.
11 “I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep. 12When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. 13The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep. 14–15I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them. 16There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them, too; they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 
John 21:1,15-19 Jesus calls us to be Shepherds
21 1Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias.
15 Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”
17A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.
18I am telling you the truth: when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will bind you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”
1 Peter 5:1-11 Follow the Good Shepherds and be Shepherds serving one another
5 1I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness.
5 In the same way you younger people must submit to your elders. And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but shows favour to the humble.” Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. 7Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.
8 Be alert, be on the watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that your fellow-believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.
11To him be the power for ever! Amen.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Ps 23:1–6). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 10:1–16). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 21:15–19). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., 1 Pe 5:1–11). New York: American Bible Society.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Good News Bible translates the beginning of the 23rd Psalm as: ‘The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me.’
Sermon for Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving Father, as we gather in the solitude of our homes with hearts that sing together the joy of knowing your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks to you for guiding us safely to this day by the voice of the Good Shepherd. May you bring us many more such days, as we listen for your voice and strive to discover the path to peace in our hearts. Give voice to our witness and courage to our convictions, that we may always remember to be caring and compassionate like shepherds to each other. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our risen Lord, Amen.
The time between the resurrection of Christ Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, must have been time of great uncertainty for the Apostles and early Disciples. With such joy over the resurrection mixed with such anxiety their future. I can just imagine the Disciples and followers of Jesus Christ gathered together. Striving with all their might to remember every word Jesus spoke to them. Every miracle he performed. Every compassion he showed to people. Trying their hardest to pit these memories against the memories of the gruesome death of their saviour.
In our lectionary, placing Good Shepherd Sunday during this time of waiting for the next great event in the Christian calendar is no small thing – and certainly no coincidence. We have the gift of an opportunity to visit with the Disciples and followers as they experienced this time of waiting.
Jesus gives the gift of his wisdom and warning from John’s Gospel, when he compared himself as both the gate, the gatekeeper, and the shepherd of a flock of sheep. It appears that Jesus was so very fond of shepherds and sheep. I suspect they were everywhere in the holy land, and yet were not given much thought, except when a perfect specimen was required for sacrifice at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem.
As we look at ourselves as the sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, we certainly don’t see perfection. But we do see the perfection of the ‘lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. And we do hold onto the image of a compassionate, vigorous, protective shepherd, just as I imagine Jesus wants us to see himself. Who protects us from the devil and his minions. Who guides us to the best that life has to offer. Who tends our wounds, provides our needs, and carries us when we cannot take even one more step. And who invites us to the even greater pastures in the perfection of eternity, when our time on this earth comes to an end.
I adore the Good News translation of Psalm 23. ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.’ So many in our developed part of the world cannot see past the wants of their existence these days, to remember that our needs are provided. And just give thanks to our Good Shepherd who has made provision for the greatest need – life – beyond the challenges, fears, and pain of this broken world. Even beyond the celebrations, accomplishments, and victories that are so temporal. Christ Jesus gives us the victory to live the joy of our salvation and the strength of our conviction. Even in isolation to overcome the threat and the reality of this global virus.
As King David’s 23rd Psalm continues, ‘The Lord lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths as he has promised.’ What a great allusion to our life in Christ Jesus.
I am told that sheep are a bit skittish, and find it difficult to relax in an open field, without protection. Always alert to any sound or sight that might be threatening. I am also told that sheep have a difficult time drinking from moving water of a stream or river, easily being drawn along in the current with their thick wool.
As sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, people are a lot like these sheep. When left in the open with no protection against our own temptations or the influence of the demons surrounding us, we live scary lives. When faced with swift currents of events around us it is easy to be drawn along in directions we don’t really want to follow.
But with the protection of our Good Shepherd, we are shielded from the worst of these currents of temptations. Sure, we will still make mistakes, and wander from the Good Shepherd from time to time. But he will never let us wander too far from his protection.
Although the prodding of his Holy Spirit that represents his rod and staff will sometimes certainly be uncomfortable as we are guided back to the flock.
Psalm 23 goes on: ‘Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.’ I always remember the story of a lamb that wandered from the flock and ended up slipping off a cliff, landing on a narrow ledge, caught in the trunk of a small tree there. It bleated, and struggled, and looked around with such panic for the longest time. The shepherd saw it there, but just waited as it continued to struggle. Until that lamb was completely spent lying in a limp heap against the small tree. Then the shepherd tied a rope around himself and worked himself down to the ledge to retrieve the poor little lamb, placing it one his shoulder as he made his way back up the crevice. You see, the shepherd knew if he tried to save the lamb while it was still struggling they both may have fallen to their demise. But when the lamb was quiet he could rescue the lamb without concern for either of their safety.
As sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, we will still go through the dark times of life in our broken world. We are reminded of this when we hear each day of the number of people who are struck with the virus, how many parish, and how many thankfully recover. No one is immune from the brokenness of life. But we can trust that our Good Shepherd will never abandon us to the deepest darkness we face. As Jesus spoke to the ladies that attended his empty tomb, and the disciples along the road to Emmaus, and in the upper room, “Do not be afraid.” And “Peace be with you”.
That peace from our Saviour brings us to the final words of the 23rd Psalm, ‘You, Lord, prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim. I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home for eternity.”
As we journey through this life, we have the assurance that not all the times of life will be filled with darkness and dread. That our Saviour also fills our cup of life to the brim with good things he has instore for us. And after we have passed through the deepest darkness, we will experience the most wondrous goodness and love of our Saviour. Jesus said, “I have come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
John writes that Jesus revealed himself as the Good Shepherd who cares so much for each one of us. By trusting him and following his voice, we experience abundant life. By knowing Jesus, and feeling his presence close to us, we discover who we are, as children of the living God. Jesus lived among us to be known and understood, to be trusted and believed.
Jesus performed miracles so people would see his authority as God the Son, and trust themselves to his care. He taught so people would understand and apply his message to their living. He related in love so he would be known in mercy as Shepherd of our souls.
As we live in the presence of the Good Shepherd, we experience the abundance of living faith. We are invited to know his voice and respond to his calling as we live in his name. His authority is at work in us. His Spirit is transforming us into the people that we know He wants us to be.
Christ Jesus is calling us to show the world that we are Christians by our love – love for Him, for the word of God, and for each other.
Our response to God’s great and wonderful gift of salvation is to commit ourselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And to one another as brothers and sisters in his family.
Because of this, we can ‘devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer’, following the Good Shepherd. And we can pray that the Holy Spirit will set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father. And to be shepherds to one another in the same way that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd.
May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Rev David Thompson