Second Sunday after Easter
Fr. David Curry
Christ Church, Windsor, NS
Jesus said, ‘I am the good Shepherd’
It is one of
the great and classic images of care. Much beloved by the parade of
generations who have gone before us, it appears constantly in glass and
stone, in tapestry and mosaic even as the Shepherd’s Psalm, Psalm 23, shapes
story and song, prayer and praise. The image of Christ the Good Shepherd is
very much with us.
But in the
dominance of the therapeutic culture of our day, it runs the risk of being
co-opted to the religion of sentimentality and feeling, the religion of
Hallmark cards and Happy Faces; in short, the religion of
“Gentle-Jesus-Come-And-Squeeze-Us”. We too easily forget the radical
nature of care that this image of Christ the Good Shepherd presents to us.
The Good Shepherd, after all, lays down his life for the sheep. The care of
the Good Shepherd has death and resurrection in it. The care is not so much
comfort as it is challenge.
It is largely
through the eyes of John that we enter into the essential or credal
mysteries of the Christian Faith. Nowhere is this signalled more clearly
than in Eastertide, the season of the resurrection. The resurrection gives
life and meaning to every other teaching. Through the eyes of John we
contemplate the mystery of Christ the Good Shepherd.
“I am the Good Shepherd”. Through the eyes of John we learn just how
radical an identification with us and with God that statement is. It
involves an intensification and re-working of at least two Old Testament
passages: the Shepherd’s Psalm and the revelation of God to Moses in the
Burning Bush. The Psalm takes on an added dimension. There is an
inescapable identity with God who reveals himself to Moses in the Burning
Bush as “I am who I am”.
is my shepherd”, the psalmist says. Jesus in the Gospels, takes that
image upon himself and gives it a deeper meaning. Beyond the accompanying
presence of God with us in “the valley of the shadow of death”, there
is the God who goes into the darkness and loneliness of each and every
death, the God who embraces our death as well as our life.
“Thy rod and
thy staff” take on an entirely different meaning. They signify the
cross and the rule of Christ. The God whom we have crucified by our sins
and the follies of our wickednesses is the God who has conquered our sin
and death. Christ is the Risen Lord and that makes all the difference. It
intensifies the radical meaning of the psalm.
message is that God goes with us, that the mysteries of life and death are
taken up into the greater mystery of God. There is something more and
something greater than death, something more than the waywardness of our
sins that distance us from God. Such things serve to remind us that the
root of care is cure. There is a remedy in it. They go a long ways towards
countering the shallow therapeutic forms of care as comfort. They recall us
to care as challenge, the challenge to will the cure that has been
accomplished for us.
wonderful collect which graces this day and this week, Christ is identified
as “both a sacrifice for sin and an example of godly life”. The cure
of the cross, radical and absolute, carries over into a pattern of holy
life, the pattern of death and resurrection in us.
Such, we may
say, is the care of the Good Shepherd. This quality of care is intended to
shape the pastoral ministry of the Church, properly known as “the cure of
souls”. When it doesn’t, of course, then care easily becomes
patronising, belittling and even abusive, anything but challenging.
shepherding care is not constrained to the ordained ministry but carries
over into all the other forms of leadership and direction in the life of the
Parish. There is to be the same quality of shepherding care by the Sunday
School teachers, the Wardens and Vestry, the lay readers, the guild members
and so on.
message of Christ the Good Shepherd is not moral correctness so much as it
is divine forgiveness which alone can restore, recreate and make new, if
only we would have the eyes to see and the hearts to act upon what we see.
The care is challenge. There is a remedy in it. We have only to will the
cure in the care. It is our greatest challenge. It means to look upon the
radical love of Christ for us and to let that love move in us.
In a way the
shepherding care of Christ the Good Shepherd is signalled in our worship.
We go up to God and God goes with us. Christ the Good Shepherd would gather
us into his love for the Father even in and “through the valley of the
shadow of death”.
Jesus said, ‘I am the good Shepherd’