PASTOR BRAD'S PAGE
Easter 4B, April 25, 2021
New Covenant, Psalm 23 & John 10:11-18
“Days of Our Lives”
It’s against the backdrop of a global pandemic and opioid epidemic, political and racial division, a crisis at the southern border, rampant mass shootings, continued income inequality, continued destruction of the environment, high levels of fear and distrust that we come to worship this week and hear the words of the 23rd Psalm and Jesus’, “I am the good shepherd” pronouncement.
The image of Jesus as the good shepherd is one of the most common and most beloved images in the scriptures. But why, “I am the good shepherd”? Why not, “I am the good teacher” or, “I am the great preacher” or, “I am the model healer”?
Sure, Moses and David and others before Jesus were shepherds, but for Jesus, a rabbi, to self-identify as a shepherd is shocking. It’s as shocking as him touching a leper. It’s as shocking as him eating with a tax collector or healing on the Sabbath. It’s as shocking as him talking to a five-time divorcee at the Samaritan well.
Why would Jesus claim to be a “good” shepherd? Shepherding was viewed as a menial job. Shepherds were thought to be anti-social and ritually unclean. They were despised for letting their sheep graze on other people’s land and their word was believed to be untrustworthy in court. Rabbis were supposed to be social, educated, respected and trustworthy, why would Jesus claim to be a “good” shepherd?
Because, sheep are vulnerable. They need their shepherd’s constant care and Jesus is the shepherd willing to do what it takes to protect the sheep. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus is the shepherd willing to lead with costly actions, not just his words. He will protect the sheep at all costs.
The text speaks of the intimacy of the relationship, between the shepherd and the sheep. The text speaks of the depth of care the shepherd offers the sheep. The shepherd and the sheep know each other. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice.
The shepherd leads them, cares for them and protects them. The sheep don’t have to be afraid, because the shepherd is there.
This is our great comfort. This is our great hope. God is our shepherd. God’s Son; Jesus Christ is our good shepherd. He knows us. We know him. We know his voice. He leads us. He cares for us. He protects us. We don’t have to be afraid, because the shepherd is there.
This is our great comfort. This is our great hope. No matter what happens in the world, no matter what happens in our lives, no matter how hurt, no matter how lonely, no matter how anxious, no matter how angry, no matter how frustrated, no matter how sad, how beaten down or how scared we are, we are not alone. The good shepherd cares and protects us. We shall not want for anything. He lets us rest in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. He restores our soul and guides us in right ways. Even though we encounter dark times in our lives, we fear no danger, because he is with us. He protects us. He sets a table for us. He bathes our heads in oil. Our cups overflow.
Goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives and we dwell in God’s house, the good shepherd’s house, forever and ever. Amen.
Rev. Bradley A. Walmer,
a 2008 graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary, where he received his Master of Divinity degree and was awarded the 2008 Rev. Delores Berry prize for preaching. He was ordained into Christian ministry by the Lebanon Association of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ on June 1, 2008. Prior to beginning his pastorate here at New Covenant on August 1, 2015, he served as the pastor of St. Paul’s Summer Hill UCC in Auburn, Pa (located southeast of Pottsville, PA).
Pastor Brad and his wife Michelle were born and raised in Lebanon County and now reside in the area with their dog, Barkley.