The 4th Sunday of Easter has been traditionally seen as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Almost every lectionary has chosen Psalm 23 and one of the Good Shepherd passages from the Gospel of John for this Sunday. Rather than go against the grain, I will find a way to teach the Good Shepherd in a new and fresh way.
- The first lesson from Acts is the only one of the four lessons that does not trend with the Shepherd theme. It is a great passage for proclamation. The next time someone asks how you or your church did something that looks powerful in the community, remind them that it wasn’t you, but the power of God in Jesus. He may have looked weak and rejected hanging on that cross, but this is just how God’s power works in the world.
- I like to read the 23rd Psalm in the King James Version. It was the first longer piece of scripture I ever memorized. There are a couple of generations living that can still quote the Psalm after being awaken from sleep. As you prepare for reading it this Sunday, be sure to read several different versions. Find ways to connect people to the depth of that song of the ages.
- The Epistle falls more in the line with shepherding theme than the Acts passage. The “Litttle Book of Love” by which this epistle is often known is explicit that this how we care for one another in the church. It brings back memories of the Gospel of John from Maundy Thursday–“love one another, as I have loved you.” Love like the shepherd who would lay down his life for the sheep. That is the heart of being a disciple.
- The Gospel could not be more “preachable”– “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Plenty of depth here…plenty of theme to ponder. I especially like pondering verse 16–the other sheep…Jesus’ mission is universal and not just tribal. Also, there is the theme that Jesus chose this path, not that he was part of some fatalistic plot. Powerful.
- The Good Shepherd by Debra Dean Murphy
- Poor Little Sheep Who Have Found Their Way (John R. Donahue)
- Lectionary Notes with Beth Quick