"A flock after God's own heart"
Today we celebrate “The Good Shepherd Sunday,” so called because we read Psalm 23, the Gospel of John where our Savior describes himself as the Good Shepherd.
Jesus defines his calling as being “The Good Shepherd.” His calling was grounded in the prophetic tradition of a future “Shepherd after God’s own heart,” (Jeremiah 3:1) willing to feed his sheep, to care for and to defend them, and to gently lead them.
For “The Good Shepherd” each one of his sheep is exceptional and cherished, each one with his or her unique traits and needs. A true shepherd tended to his flock with love and devotion, providing each sheep with exactly what it was required. And that was what Jesus did for his flock, and continues to be and do for us, “Who are his people, and the sheep of his own pasture.”
Jesus understood to be the Good Shepherd as being a gateway to new pastures and new life, an open and inviting gateway which would remain open even if all other doors in life are shut on our faces. But Jesus it is also a door with the inner strength necessary to defend the flock – us – against all kinds of self-serving and life-sucking wannabe intruders.
In our Lord’s time, shepherds were a dime a dozen. In the early agricultural life of His time, sheep were as common as backyard birds. Why Jesus is “The Good” Shepherd? Because He was and continues to be committed to His calling. He would not abandon His flock. He would carry on His shoulders and rescue the lost sheep. He is “The Good Shepherd” because He laid down His own life for the sake of the flock, for you and for me.
Christ’s commitment to care for all never wavered, even in the face of criticism. He had a clear vision. And He never hesitated: “Not my will, but yours!” (Luke 22:42), He said.
Jesus was grilled about the wisdom of his plan of salvation. Peter himself tried to get the Savior out of harm’s way. Yet, Jesus did not change his mind; rather, “He steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament God speaks of His people as his sheep (singular), stressing the importance of each individual as His sheep. Even counted in the millions and millions through all the ages, still God delights in calling each individual His very own sheep. Under God eyes, we never lose our individuality and our potential.
Jesus never rejected anyone willing to come to Him. He was clear about one thing – “I have come not to call those who got everything right, but those who have found in their heart a God’s-sized hole” (cf. Luke 5:32).
And, such individuals, like all of us, come in all ages, races, languages, income brackets, genders, ability, or disability and, perhaps unexpectedly, from all political persuasions!
And here is miracle that can happen again and again. A miracle that it was not reserved to the first Christians long time ago. It is the miracle of Christian community.
As St. Luke wrote in our first lesson, it is the miracle of people of distinct and contrasting backgrounds, languages and persuasions nevertheless coming together for the common good.
It is the miracle that happens every Sunday when we gather together as one flock under one Shepherd. It is even more so, when through social media others far away from us, still are able to join us to worship the Risen Lord.
It is the miracle that happens when against all the forces that try to pull us apart, the Good Shepherd brings us still even closer together, as a community of the beloved children of God.
It is a transformative miracle that, paraphrasing Jeremiah, turns us into “A flock after God’s own heart.”
Thanks be to God for St. David’s, and each one of you in your individual giftedness making a difference in the world around us.
“Size matters,” we are told. Yes and no. As long as we trust that “It is not by force nor by strength, but by God’s Spirit,” (Zachariah 4:6) we will be on the right track. And nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in the way for making St. David’s all that God has called us to be.
I thank God for your faith and your faithfulness, for your hope and hopefulness, and for your love and lovingkindness.
And now, “Glory to God whose power working in us, can do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine: Glory to Him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.” Amen.