Sunday, June 18, 2021
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, the familiar hymn of confidence, gratitude, and hope.
You, Lord, are my shepherd; I shall not be in want. You make me lie down in green pastures and lead me beside still waters. You revive my soul and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Praying this psalm, we are enfolded into the arms of a loving God.
This beautiful image, which is beloved to us even in our highly urbanized society, certainly held even greater meaning to the early Christians. They understood, from experience, the utter self-donation of a shepherd to his flock. The shepherd needs the sheep in order to live, just as they need the shepherd. Their lives were critically interdependent.
In a sense, the shepherd became one with the sheep. From sunrise to sunset, and even through the night, he led them to food, water, and rest. He protected them as they slept, by laying his own body across the sheep gate.
In our own time, a more familiar image might be that of a horse-whisperer, someone who through natural sensitivity and studious training, is able to understand and communicate with animals. Rather than “breaking” a horse, as seen in old westerns, the horse-whisperer leads them to trust by listening and responding to them through body-language.
As we pray with the image of the Good Shepherd today, we might imagine Jesus as our “Soul-Whisperer”. Jesus stands beside us in the vast, open loneliness of life, which sometimes tries to “break” us. But we are never alone. He is listening. As he opens our life before us, let us trust and follow him. He has made our welfare his own by becoming one of us.
Poetry: I Am the Door of the Sheepfold – Malcolm Guite
Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung, Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place, Not like the well-oiled openings that swung So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace, Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face From house to house in brimming Bethlehem, Not like the one that no man may assail, The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil That waits your breaking in Jerusalem. Not one you made but one you have become: Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach Of your high pasture. Calling us by name, You lay your body down across the breach, Yourself the door that opens into home.
Music: The Lonely Shepherd – Leo Rojas