Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday.

”The gatekeeper opens the gate…and the sheep follow him because they hear his voice…. I am the good shepherd.” Jesus, in today’s Gospel John 10:1-11. 

“Jack! Here! Jack! Jack!” The priest Guardian last Sunday.

The set Gospel reading is the reason today’s called Good Shepherd Sunday and my view of it has changed since I took in a sheepdog called Jack a year ago. A border collie, Jack had lived outside on a farm for three years but was no longer required and coming into domesticity was quite a challenge for him – and me!  He has a lovely nature but, recently, has begun to take interest in my neighbour’s pet sheep, Lambie, trying to round her up as is his instinct. She doesn’t want this and the problem is usually solved by having him on his lead when she’s nearby. Last Sunday, however, he slipped away after the service and I didn’t realise this until I saw some of the congregation trying to stop him getting close to Lambie. I was told that, if I called Jack, he might respond to my voice. Not a chance! He was so intent on Lambie that he couldn’t or wouldn’t listen to me and, in the end, it took three people to stop him as, by then, he was circling the yew tree as well as the ewe beneath it and trying to round us all up. Clearly, Jack and I both need to do more training together to learn how to do what’s sometimes demanded of us.

Of all the work Jesus could have chosen, describing himself as a shepherd is significant because the good shepherd cares for the flock and will lay down their life for the sheep if necessary – as did Jesus. This also became painfully true on 12th April when Benjamin Achimir, an Israeli shepherd boy aged 14, was shot and killed as he took his flock to graze in the occupied West Bank near Ramallah. The sheep found their way back home without him.  

Is the same true of us? In times of crisis, are we able to find our way without Jesus our shepherd? David, who wrote in Psalm 23 that, “The Lord is my shepherd” was a shepherd boy and harpist who eventually became the third King of Judah but sometimes lost his way. As a young lad, he was a hero for killing the giant Goliath with his sling but was later also an adulterer with Bathsheba, having arranged for her husband Uriah to be murdered in battle. He seems an unlikely shepherd of his people and did not always listen to God’s voice but nevertheless remained King, although depression took its toll of him. Perhaps because of it all, the psalms he wrote are some of the most beautiful prayers to be found and often very helpful when the going is hard.

Perhaps we find ourselves prone to sadness about how things are in the world or are unable to hear the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd in the cacophony of violence and babble that can so easily drown it out. But if David can serve God despite his faults, so can we – though, like Jack and his new(ish) owner, we may need to listen and respond to his voice more than we do!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, priest Guardian.