Fourth Sunday of Easter – Series C (Good Shepherd Sunday)
The fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday. The theme is worthy of revisiting every year. David’s poem which we call the 23rd psalm has been beloved for millennia. Think about that. What other poetry from 3000 years ago has that sort of impact. Yes, the Iliad and Odyssey are about that old and still read, but there are not a bunch of little old ladies in your parish or anywhere for that matter who have Homer’s words on a plaque in their kitchen or living room. There are not pictures of Odysseus or Achilles like there are pictures of Jesus with lambs in the homes of everyday people. David’s image of God shepherding His people is simply one of the oldest and most important images the world has ever seen. Even in our prosaic age, this poem continues to touch people and shape their lives.
One winter day Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders of his day, during a feast when lambs are sacrificed, and he says that they do not listen because they are not of his flock. He is playing on this imagery of David. He goes on to make some really important promises relating to that image. The sheep know his voice and follow him. He has them in hand. He leads them to eternal life. They cannot be forcibly removed from His care. He is one with the Father who is stronger than all. All these themes of strength, goal, care, and call combine in this important passage from the Gospel according to John. The preacher’s challenge is to make this a sermon – there is almost too much here. We can get distracted or our messages can be diluted by trying to do too much.