April 24, 2007

Looking Forward to April 29, 2007--4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday

Every year on the 4th Sunday of Easter we read Psalm 23 and a section from John 10 where Jesus talks about himself as the Good Shepherd. For that reason it is known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:

  • From the Writings of the Early Church: Revelation 7:9-17
  • Psalm 23 (VU p.749)
  • From the Gospel: John 10:22-30

The hymns for this Sunday are:

  • 345 Come, Children, Join to Sing
  • 747 The Lord is My Shepherd
  • 340 Jesus, Friend of Little Children
  • 232 Joyful, Joyful We Adore You

The Sermon title is: I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

Early Thoughts: There is a song we used to sing at camp where the chorus went:

I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa,
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa

The verses then go on to name some of what the singers don't "wanna be" (a hypocrite, a Sadducee, a Pharisee). The song was based in part on the idea in the tenth chapter of John where Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd. If Jesus is the Shepherd then we who follow must be the sheep, right? A similar sentiment can be drawn from the opening verse of Psalm 23-- "The Lord is my Shepherd".

But do I really want to be a sheep? In contemporary imagery sheep are used to define rather stupid animals who succumb all too easily to the flock mentality. I suppose it is better to be called sheep than lemmings but not by much (although to be fair the image of lemmings blissfully following each other over a cliff is a bit of a Disney-created overstatement, but it is an image that sticks). We live in a culture that prides individuals. We encourage our children to grow up and think for themselves, not just follow a charismatic leader or go along with the crowd. Does shepherd/sheep imagery still work for us today?

I think it does, or at least it can. But in order for that to happen we need to recover a sense of what the shepherd does. As Psalm 23 makes clear, the shepherd protects and guides. North American culture still has a bit of a frontier mentality. This leads us to the somewhat erroneous belief that the best model of life is the "self-made man [sic]". To choose to follow, or even admit we might need, a shepherd is to choose to say we can't just pull ourselves through life by hauling on our own bootstraps. There is wisdom in being sheepish, in seeking the protection and guidance of the shepherd.

So do I really "wanna be a sheep"? I'm not always sure. Maybe by Sunday I will have a bit more certainty. Why don't you come and see what I decide...

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