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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Readings – Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; I John 3:16-24; John 10: 11-18

Our stained-glass windows, chosen by Mary Kitera Snyder, depict earth, sky and heavens.  There are very few churches without stained glass saints.  And most churches have a stained-glass Jesus, depicting him as the Good Shepherd with a staff, perhaps holding a lamb, perhaps with additional lambs at his feet.  Some times the stained-glass Good Shepherd Jesus is the primary image, towering over the altar, the choir, the pulpit and the lectern. 

In times of distress, it can be comforting, it can be reassuring, that the Good Shepherd is there with us.  The stained-glass Good Shepherd pulls us immediately to the 23rd Psalm, perhaps the best known of all the psalms.  The words of comfort are well known.                                                                                                  

I shall not be in want.
I will rest in green grass by gentle waters.
The shepherd will revive me and guide me.
The shepherd will guide me through tough times and protect me.
The shepherd will provide a sumptuous meal and anoint me
like a king.
And finally, I will always be in God’s presence.

However, the other appointed lessons for today seek to move us beyond our comfort zone.  In 1 John we find these words:

 let us love, not in word or speech but in truth and action.

A bit later we find, not a suggestion, but a commandment:

that one should believe in the name of …Jesus Christ and love one another.

And in the Gospel according to St. John we are reminded that love is not soft and squishy like a marshmallow.  The Good Shepherd, out of love,

lays down his life for the sheep.

This is not an easy thing, to put another’s life, another’s well-being, before ours.

Within our readings there is a shift from being comforted by the Good Shepherd to being a shepherd ourselves.  The work of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is to

go after the sheep that do not belong to this fold.                 

We are to do the same.  We are to shepherd others.  We are to extend ourselves, to put aside our green grass and our still waters, in order to serve others, in order to love others.

We are to find green pastures and still waters for others.
We are to revive others.
We are to have a rod and staff to protect others through tough times.
We are to prepare a feast with anointing heads and overflowing cups.
We are to be share goodness and of mercy. 

There is an old hymn written in 1874 by Knowles Shaw.  I did not find it in any of our hymnals. It is sometimes heard in the background of T.V. shows and movies.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves.
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

The verses speak to a farmer’s hard work needed to bring in a harvest:

Sowing in the morning… sowing in the noon time.
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter chilling breeze

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master
Tho’, the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping ‘s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bring in the sheaves. 

While the image of the Good Shepherd usually pulls on the heart and comforts us, the Good Shepherd is also a working person, seating out the early morning, the noontime, and the evening, out in all sorts of weather. Yet, when the farmer’s day is done, when the harvest is in, when the sheaves are in the barn, and that’s when we shall rejoice. 

Folks, we have work to be done as shepherds, and as farmers.  It is not yet harvest time.  We are called to walk with the Good Shepherd and with the Good Farmer as we continue to love in truth and in action. 

[We] have promises to keep.                                                                                                       And [we] have miles to go before [we] sleep.   

Amen                                                   (Borrowed from Robert Frost.)                                             

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