Good pasture

Watching for the morning of May 11

Year A

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

© Copyright Maurice Pullin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Maurice Pullin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Sunday is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year on the fourth Sunday of Easter the texts direct us to John 10 and the images there of shepherd, sheep and sheepfold.

It’s worth noting that his hearers did not understand what Jesus was talking about when he begins his discourse about the Good Shepherd. This is a persistent literary motif of John’s Gospel – earthbound confusion (“Why is Jesus talking about sheep?”) versus spiritual insight. Just as Nicodemus can’t understand what it means to be born a second time when Jesus is talking about being born from above, the people don’t understand that Jesus is the one to call them by name and lead them to “good pasture,” to the life of God.

This is not a sweet pastoral image of a shepherd’s care for his sheep. Indeed the language about Shepherds is deeply ironic since shepherds were regarded as thieves and without honor. But the key is ‘good pasture’. Jesus is talking about access to the father. This is not about divine providence and care but entering into the divine life.

It is not the temple leadership who enter by the gate. It is not the scribes and Pharisees. They are thieves and bandits. They rob and plunder the sheep, as Ezekiel declares. They do not protect the sheep. They do not care for the sheep. They do not go ahead of the sheep leading them to life. But all this eludes his hearers – so Jesus tries again: he is the gate for the sheep; through him they go out to find good pasture. Through him they go out to abundant life. Through him they enter into the life of God. But Jesus’ words only divide the crowd. Some conclude he has a demon. Others wonder whether a man possessed is able to open the eyes of a person born blind.

The true shepherd, the noble shepherd, the way to the Father is in their midst, but they are like sheep without a shepherd. They cannot see.

The Prayer for May 11, 2014

Gracious God,
guardian and shepherd of our souls,
keep us in your Word
that, hearing and following your voice,
we may know your abundant life;
through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever,

The Texts for May 11, 2014

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” – Luke presents one of his summary descriptions of the early Christian community, an ever expanding community manifesting God’s.

Psalmody: Psalm 23
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” – a song of trust born of reflection upon God’s gracious care and providence through the challenges and trials of life. In the midst of the dangerous intrigues of the royal court, God is the true shepherd who has guarded and guided the poet’s way.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:19-25
“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” –
this section of 1 Peter is presumably appointed for Good Shepherd Sunday for its line: “you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls,” but this section of the homily speaks to the pattern of enduring suffering given by Jesus.

Gospel: John 10:1-10
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” – Several metaphors from the world of shepherding are taken up as parables of the access to ‘Life’ found in Jesus.

 

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