Easter Season Sermon Video
Click below to hear The Rev. Alexander McCurdy’s sermon preview for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 25th, 2021.
In most contemporary contexts, being addressed as a sheep is not exactly flattering. The metaphor doesn’t quite fit American mentality with its culture of boldness in business and pleasure, positive self-esteem attitudes encouraged and furthered by our up-beat cultural efforts.
Of course, in the metaphor used by Jesus in the Gospel reading for this Sunday, the emphasis is less on the sheep image and more on the shepherds. He is the one who cares and protects. It’s a welcoming, warm and protective image that I have always guarded in my heart’s eye since being taught the 23rd Psalm as a child. You and I have hopefully done it for our children, or if not, at St. David’s we have had someone like our Maria and many others who embody that aspect of the good, kind, protective Jesus as the Good Shepherd image, for our little ones in Sunday school or VBS in the summer.
In a world with so much coldness and hostility, so much which threatens and frightens even the boldest among us, the knowledge of being ultimately and intimately watched over is wonderful. I’ve taken to memorizing Psalms in my end days on this earth, allowing myself to be swaddled in their words, especially in the dark nights of this oh so temporary life: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” “Out of the deep have I called unto thee O Lord; Lord hear my voice.”
But, there are other aspects of Jesus which don’t seem to fit in with the deeply benevolent picture of the Good Shepherd. In fact, when it comes to the few actual shepherds I’ve seen with my own eyes, these fellows were tough hulking men who, shall we say, meant business in going about their sheep protecting activity.
And actually, this is also Jesus the Good Shepherd who challenges Pharisaic fundamentalisms, who tells rich young men to sell all and follow him, who threatens punishment for those who do not see his face in “the least of these thy brethren.” These shepherd images remind us of how the fear of God is indeed the beginning of wisdom, but by no means the end of it.
That’s because for us as a Christian church, the dominant shepherd image is that of the self-sacrificing God, who dies for his flock, who takes the hit for his creatures. That degree of love, mercy and self-sacrifice should make Christians tremble. As
Psalm 130 puts it: “For there is mercy with thee, therefore shalt thou be feared.”
Imagine that: mercy, forgiveness and love so great, that when we witness it, see it with our eyes fully opened at the moment of the General Resurrection, we will tremble at the enormity and omnipotence of it.
So may this week be for you a time of holding the image of Jesus reminding us that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for us. Reason to keep humming that old Christmas carol all the time: “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” The Good Shepherd, that is.