Today is traditionally called “Shepherd’s Sunday”. Our readings are –
Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, I Peter 2:19-25, and John 10:1-10.
From the 23rd Psalm, we observe that a shepherd has three tools to care for the sheep, voice, staff, and rod. With the voice “he calls his own by name…the sheep know his voice”. The caregiver has a relationship with each one; the sheep listen for the voice to guide them to “green pastures”, and to “still waters”. Listening to the shepherd’s voice “restores” the soul of the followers. The staff of the shepherd provides guidance, a tap on the shoulder for an “attaboy”, a well done, and perhaps a firmer tap when one begins to wander off or get out of line. The rod is an instrument meant not for the sheep but for the predators who would seek to do harm. A wave of the rod is sometimes enough to threaten, but sometimes it needs to be used to strike a stunning blow so that the sheep would remain safe.
Jesus Christ is our shepherd. And we are invited, I believe, to share his work in our own day. This means that we are to shepherd our sisters and brothers, our friends and our foes, and our fields and streams, too. We are to be shepherds; we are to be caregivers. Now that is a tall order. The reading from Acts gives us the four traditional pillars that support our shepherding work. Just as for those first Christians of Acts, we are to devote ourselves “to the apostles teaching [Bible study], and fellowship [community of faith], to the breaking of the bread [Holy Eucharist], and the prayers”. These four activities strengthen us to be the dedicated shepherds, the dedicated caregivers, of our community, our commonwealth, our nation, and this fragile earth, our home. These activities enable us to use the encouraging voice of a shepherd, to wield the guiding staff of a shepherd, and, when needed, to defend others from predators that seek to divide and destroy.
Final thought, from the Gospel according to St. John, a good shepherd’s goal, a caregiver’s delight, is that all “may have life and have it abundantly”. The shepherd’s voice, staff, and rod’s purpose are to enable all to live to their fullest capacity according to the gifts they have been given. Like the good shepherd who would lay down his own life for the sheep, so we, as his disciples, are not to insist on our rights, but rather to strive to ensure the abundant life for others.
It is time for the people of faith, not only to affirm with gratitude those we call “public servants”, but also, as sisters and brothers in Christ, to arise and to affirm our roles as shepherds, as caregivers, using our voices, our staffs, our rods for the well being of God’s creation so that all may be good and fruitful and multiply as our Creator intends.
Rejoice and be safe.