THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday. We glimpse that shepherd image in the prayer (below), in Psalm 23, and in the Gospel.
Who has been a good shepherd in your life and how have they shepherded you? Have you seen that shepherding as God’s care for you?
I have been very fortunate to have good parents and grandparents, who nurtured, fed, guided, corrected and ‘shepherded’ me. I have had talented and personable teachers and professors who have challenged and broadened me. I have had mentors who have directed and shaped me. I have a spouse who shares her exceptional radar and wisdom with me. This Sunday is her birthday.
I tend to see all these wonderful shepherds as God’s provision for this sheep, who otherwise might be too sheepish to behave well as a child of God.
Psalm 23 provides rich shepherding in itself re our lives as part of God’s flock: walking through the valley of the shadow of death, sharing in a God-prepared meal in the presence of our enemies, dwelling in God’s house. That Psalm shepherds me because it touches some real parts of my life. That image of a table in the presence of my enemies is a deeply spiritual guide teacher, and reminder.
We give thanks for THE Good Shepherd and for many good shepherds in our lives. The new life we have received from that Good Shepherd leads us to respond to God’s call to BE good shepherds to others.
O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us into your fold. Feed us, and we shall be satisfied; heal us, and we shall be whole. Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
[Jesus said:] 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The 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. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes 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."
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Different months of the year bring different awarenesses.
Beyond the seasonal changes, October is fire prevention month. April is the designated month to highlight the prevention of child abuse and sexual assault. Such preventions we can all support. Are there preventions we can not support?
A person in the gospel story today asks a question in an odd way that makes us think and reflect on our ways (beliefs, practices, rituals, culture) as a community of faith.
The question about baptism is asked by an Ethiopian man who is a eunuch. As Philip has read scripture to this man and explained some of the faith to this man, the man asks a question about belonging. He does not ask if or how he can belong. He asks a more cautionary, careful, perhaps even guarded and revealing question: ‘what is to prevent me from being baptized?’
To me that sounds like the voice of one who was experienced in being not included because . . . . . .
He was African. He was ‘not whole’. Therefore, . . . . . . . not included – by some, many.
But Philip stopped everything to baptize this man. This man, so often not included by others, does belong in the Kingdom of God.
This story is a timely reminder for us in this time and for people of every time re belonging in the Kingdom of God.
Many people are put off by the prevention messages they receive about belonging to a faith community. Those ‘messages’ come from the community of faith. Such messages are not always verbalized, but they can be communicated that ‘you are not our type’. Various aspects of our type prevent your type from belonging.
Many faith communities ponder the absence of younger people in their mix. Might we ponder what we might be communicating that prevents such people from belonging? And then can we lean into the model of Philip who stops everything immediately to baptize and mark this person as belonging.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
7"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."