The Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday every year. Our collect and readings remind us that in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament, the middle eastern shepherd is a metaphor for the divine nature. The gospel readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter are always from the tenth chapter of John. If you read the entire chapter you not only hear about the Good Shepherd but also the flock.
It helps me to pay more attention to the flock in these readings. The character of the flock reveals something about the one who guides and cares for it. The fact, for example, that there are different kinds of sheep indicates that the shepherd values diversity along with unity.
I’m very grateful that the Good Shepherd values this sort of unity in the midst of diversity, yet I am aware of how difficult it is to achieve and how challenging it is to maintain. We tend to associate with people with whom we share racial, cultural, economic, and religious characteristics and values. At times we may even ridicule those who appear to be different.
The Good Shepherd calls us all, "from every nation, race, people and tongue." Unlike the societies in which we live, in the Good Shepherd’s flock our differences are to remain as distinctions but not as separations. They enhance the color and texture of the community of believers rather than alienating or marginalizing. There is no dominant or superior group in this flock. We are all God’s people, "one flock, one Shepherd."
It is a paradox of our faith that the Good Shepherd is also the Lamb of God. Of his own accord, he laid down his life for the sheep. He paid for the undisputed right to lead us by the shedding of his blood. If we hear his voice and follow him, he will make it possible for us to live together in peace. If we can do that, as diverse a flock as we are, perhaps the flock of Christ can offer hope to our divided world. This is reason enough to cry out Alleluia!
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral
P.S. I want to share with you one of my favorite musical settings of the twenty-third psalm. It is by composer Howard Goodall and some of you will recognize it as the theme song from a BBC television production about a flock that was tended by a very interesting shepherd. The choir is that of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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