Good Shepherd Sunday, 4th Sunday of Easter

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If a person looks at Jesus ministry it is not hard to see the good shepherd at work. To Jesus, His flock was scattered from Jericho through Tyra, and into Samaria, and the collapsed Kingdom of Israel, and the regions surrounding the Sea of Galilee, and the occupied land of Judea, including its capital of Jerusalem. Identical to the way a shepherd guides his flock through a mountain pasture, Jesus herded His flock of the lands once occupied and surrounding Gods Chosen people. Within that flock, Jesus has those that responded readily to His call, He had those that had strayed, and those that were in great peril. His flock contained those blinded and crippled by culture, and those in mortal danger for the same reason. There were the Samaritans led astray by a bad Shepherd, that king that led his flock towards paganism. There were those around Galilee that had been under such Hellenic influence that they were losing much of their cultural identity. There was the people that became isolated from temple worship due to exile, and those that wished to promulgate laws to increase a Nationalistic identity. There were those that starved through cultural injustice, those that were forced to submit to an invading army. Jesus, the good shepherd, dealt with some very real cultural, political, and theological problems that plagued His society. A good shepherd was not a pleasant phrase, it was something people of that era truly prayed for. Though they prayed earnestly for a good shepherd, more times than not they were delivered quite the opposite. To Jesus disciples He indeed was The Good Shepherd, Jesus resurrection is proof of that.

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

I write of that as I think of the shepherds of today, both those that wish to guide Jesus’s flock, and those that do their best to pillage from it. History allows me to study the times of Jesus, and take an objective look at the Shepherds that influenced the people of that time. As I look at what those people were shepherded into, both good and bad, I can also look at the pastures today, and look at all of those shepherds that are calling. It might seem cliché to call Jesus the Good Shepherd, but is it a cliché to call the President of the USA a shepherd, is it difficult to call the leading democratic and republican candidates shepherds. It then cannot be a cliché, today we do not refer to our world leaders as shepherds. They are though, and perhaps people would do better to think of them that way. A person doesn’t have to only use that title for elected leaders though, celebrities also shepherd their flock. Is it a cliché to call a television celebrity a shepherd? They also call their flock, and they have many resources to call people to their flock. Jesus shepherded by foot and on a hillside. Today’s shepherds have focus groups, political scientists, lobbyists, advertising campaigns, and a worldwide reach through modern communications. They have agendas, all shepherds do, but are they good shepherds? Sometimes it is important to realize how many shepherds are calling for a flock, and to recognize the sounds of their calls. Which Shepherds do I hear the call of, and how do I respond? Do I recognize both the pastures they wish to lead me to, and the thickets they wish to ensnare me by? Are they the Good Shepherds, are they out to protect or exploit me. Jesus says I am the good shepherd, and somehow I believe him. We need a good shepherd to guide us through these perilous times.

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