April 25, 2021
Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18 NSRV
Clergy, Mount Hermon United Methodist Church
Tennessee Valley District
Psalm 23 and John 10: 11-18
Psalm 23The Divine Shepherd A Psalm of David.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[d] I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely[e] goodness and mercy[f] shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.[g]
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes[a] it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
We are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. With such familiarity comes the risk that when we hear it, we are not listening with open hearts to receive the message it would have for us today. Our mind goes back to the last time we heard it at a funeral, or we drift back to childhood when a nice Sunday School teacher taught our class to recite it.
Admittedly I know very little about sheep. What I do know about them comes from the days when my nephews were involved in the 4-H program in McMinn County. They raised them, showed them, sheared them, and sold them. At one point, there were close to 40 running around on the farm. All of these sheep had names, and each one responded when called. A few minutes have passed since those days, and I can’t remember many of their names.
However, one I do remember. His name was Orry, named for Patrick Swayzes character in “North & South.” Because of complications while being birthed, Orry came into the world broken, literally. He had a broken front leg. He would never be a perfect show sheep. Instead of “leading the lamb to the slaughter,” the boys convinced their parents to have Orry's leg mended, so the leg was set in a cast. But who was going to care for Orry?
They took that little lamb into the house and bottle fed him. They let him sleep in their room. They nurtured Orry. He was their playmate. I remember hearing Orry could play basketball. It wasn’t until I saw it with my own eyes that I believed it, but sure enough he could dribble with his chin and chase down rim shots. It was indeed a sad day many years later when Orry's hole was dug in a field down on Wormy Pines Farm. Goodness and mercy followed that sheep all the days of his life. He had good shepherds.
Rabbi Harold Kushner shares, “A skeptic might ask, ‘If the lord is my shepherd,’ if it is His responsibility to keep me safe, why isn’t He doing a better job of it? Why is it that I can never watch the news on television or open my morning paper without hearing or reading about some tragedy or crime? Why am I constantly seeing good people dying, good people crippled by illness, good people divorced, fired, cheated? Where is God’s saving grace and compassion in all those cases?” (The Lord is My Shepherd, pg. 21.)
These are legitimate questions from a skeptic. Friends, let’s not be skeptics! We all come into the world broken through no fault of our own. We live in a broken world. The Good News for us can be found in the reality of Christ’s message: “I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me. I lay down my life to take it up again. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”
Dear Good Shepherd, let us hear you calling our name in our brokenness. Help us to yield to Your care of Your flock, even those who are not of the same fold to which we belong. Cause us to share in the care of all the lost and broken people (sheep) who are wandering, who are seeking goodness and mercy. Amen.