Easter IV, 2023

In the catacombs of Rome, the ancient Christian cemetery of that ancient Christian community, we find many images of Jesus. This is a favorite: Jesus the Good Shepherd. The images are rather crude in some instances. The artists are not the sorts who are adorning Nero’s or Domitian’s palaces. Here we see the Good Shepherd depicted as a Roman youth, the sort of person who would be a shepherd at the time.

I look at this image and am always struck by how important this picture has been for so long. David’s wonderful 23rd Psalm is likely embroidered, carved, or otherwise imprinted on a piece of art hanging in the living room of at least one of your members homes. It hangs there, ready to be read everyday by the people who live in that house. I can read those words at a funeral and I will see people close their eyes and recite them with me. They are woven into the the hearts and minds of folks. This image was already a 1000 years old when Jesus picked it up and acknowledged that He is the only and truly Good Shepherd.

In simple literary and historical terms, the 23rd Psalm deserves some attention from us. We have other poetry from the time and much more from subsequent generations, but it is not hanging in the living rooms of the faithful men and women of your parish. You won’t find Homer’s words or those of Babylonian poets. Simply in terms of longevity, aside from the comfort and peace this passage brings, this is amazing. That your people are reading and carefully considering a poem written 3000 years ago in a different language is astounding and a testament both to the power of the Holy Spirit and David’s skill as an author.

This week we will touch on some of the bedrock faith of our people. Handle with some care but don’t afraid of that strength and durable presence. You really do not need to reinvent the wheel here. The Good Shepherd’s rod and staff still comfort the flock which considers its own journey through the valley of the shadow of death.