Easter 4, Year A – “Good Shepherd Sunday”

Title:Easter 4, Year A – “Good Shepherd Sunday”

We continue doing “Zoom Church” at St. Peter’s, a variation of Morning Prayer.

The bulletin is here

We had numerous contributions – Ars Nova Singers from Youtube presenting “The King of Love my Shepherd Is”, a piano arrangement of “I come with joy” by Brad Volland, “Shepherd of souls ” acapella from Helmut Linne von Berg

Here is how we worked the readings and prayers together. The video from Ars Nova is on this page.

During the announcements we had a video created by Catherine of photos showing “abundance” submitted by the congregation. Here is a collage of May flowers show this weekend. We celebrated Rev. Karen Woodruff’s birthday and who was online with us in the service.

We had contributions in the prayers from Marilyn Nemwan, “For all Sorts and Conditions of Men” and “A Prayer to Combat the Coronavirus Pandemic”, ” For Schools and colleges” (offered by Elizabeth Heimbach)

The beginning had opening sentences from Henri Nouwen and “The Blessing from the Iona Abbey Worship Book” to conclude the service.

This Sunday is called Good Shepherd Sunday with readings of the 23rd Psalm and the Gospel Reading of John 10.

Today’s readings exalt Jesus as our shepherd-leader.

The first weeks from Easter were different lenses on the resurrection and appearances of the Risen Lord, first with Thomas and then the Road to Emmaus. After this Sunday attention will turn to the teachings of the departing Jesus and the role of the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. But this week its the shepherd/ sheep image as a way of talking about the enduring and deep connection of Jesus and those who follow him.

Psalm 23 provides the role of God as good shepherd in terms of defense (protection amd care and the idea we having nothing to fear) but also in direction ( guidance, reviving our lives).

In Acts, Peter’s testimony moves the people to repent and be baptized, acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Messiah. 1 Peter points us to Christ as suffering servant, a leader who is both redeemer and example. Jesus compares his relationship with God’s people to a shepherd’s care for the sheep.

Peter concludes his sermon in Acts with the proclamation that the crucified Jesus has been exalted as Lord and Messiah. Now the saving name is Jesus Christ. In response to the plea of the crowd, Peter outlines the way of salvation.

The first step is repentance (Greek, metanoia, meaning “change of heart, conversion”). The second step is baptism “in the name” (v. 38) that brings salvation. Those who submit to repentance and baptism receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit, who provides the fundamental principle of life in the Christian community. Christian life together is characterized by common sharing of goods, daily prayer in the temple and breaking bread “with glad and generous hearts” (v. 46).

The final verse of the Epistle makes the connection to Good Shepherd Sunday. "For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." Suffering isolates. This passage and Christian faith connect and keep us connected when suffering.

The parable of The Shepherd part of the Gospel (vss. 3b-5) tends to focus more on the relationship between shepherd and sheep, and this represents a theme with ancient antecedents in the biblical tradition as well as in the ancient world.

He knows them by name. Jesus is our good shepherd and we know that God/Jesus owns us and knows us by name. We human beings love it when someone knows and remembers our name

As the Shepherd,he calls the faithful to follow him (v. 4); they don’t follow a “stranger” (v. 5) since they don’t know the stranger’s voice but know Jesus’ voice. The people listen to him and not to the “Pharisees” (9:40), “all who came before me” (v. 8).

In verses 11-13 Jesus is the model shepherd who will even die for his sheep, unlike hired hands who have no feeling for the sheep or wolves who simply devour the sheep:

John’s reading speaks of Jesus as both the Shepherd and the gate but it takes on new directions. Jesus does not say he is like the gate. Rather, he is the gate. He does not say he is like the good shepherd; he says, "I am the good shepherd," just as he says, "I am the vine," "I am the bread of life," "I am the resurrection and the life," "I am the way, the truth, and the life," "I am the light of the world.

He extend the message of Psalm 23. The Gate is no longer simply the proper entry point avoided by thieves and robbers who reveal their true identity by their failure to enter at the appropriate place. Now the Gate is an attribute of Jesus personally; as also seen John 14:6. He is not just a protector but provides an entry way to salvation. He is the only “gate” (v. 9) to eternal “life” (v. 10), to freedom (“come in and go out”, v. 9, a Jewish idiom), and to nourishment beyond measure (“find pasture … abundantly”).

Here is a video that tries to enlarge our understanding of Jesus as the Good Shepherd

What did it mean for Jesus to call himself the Good Shepherd?

What details of what we know about shepherds in ancient Judaism can shed light on what Jesus is fully intimating to his audience when he designates himself as the Good Shepherd? How does this apply to eternal life? And, what does this reveal about Jesus’ identity, especially in light of the prophet Ezekiel?