Let us pray:
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Though we may struggle in our lives with fear or worry,
we are reminded that you have not left us alone.
For we follow in faith the call of the shepherd
whom you have sent for our hope and our strength.
Attune our minds to the sound of the shepherd’s voice.
Lead our steps in the path shown to us by the shepherd,
that we may know the strength of your outstretched arm
and enjoy the light of your presence forever. AMEN
1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 4: 8-12
Acts show us just how radically Jesus’ followers have been transformed by His risen presence. Before, fear ruled their behavior; now they are courageous. They boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen; in that process they too enter into the cycle of dying and rising. Only the power of the risen Christ and his Spirit could bring about such a profound change in their lives. (Birmingham, W& W Workbook, 376)
The word for cornerstone in Greek could be more correctly translated as the head of a corner or the capstone or keystone. When building arches, Romans first constructed the two sides of the arch; the last stone to be set in place was the capstone which joined the sides assuring stability and endurance. This capstone was a powerful symbol for Christ for the early Christians. (Celebration, May 2003)
The name of a person is more than just an artificial ‘tag’ to tell one person from another. A name represents the fullness of a person. If we do something in someone’s name, we do it as that person would do it. As a Christian we are to act as Christ, to act in his name. To live this way is to find salvation (fullness of health). Salvation in the name of Jesus is not a ‘magic thing.’ It is a way of life. It is a way of love.
2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 1-2
We are children of God. By nature we are creatures of God, but it is by grace that we are children of God. It is like comparing paternity and fatherhood (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 73-74). It is one thing to be created, and something entirely endearing and intimate to family. We are called into this kind of relationship to God. How do we answer? How does God reveal Godself to you? When you sense this, do you feel more like a child of God? Take some prayerful time to sit with these words and mull the questions.
The Gospel– John 10: 11-18
Imagine the scene. It is first-century Palestine. Each day the shepherd would take his flock out into the desert for the day’s grazing only to return to the sheepfold, a common enclosure with a low stone wall and gated entrance. At day’s end the shepherds would bring their sheep to the fold to keep them safe from the dangers of the night: wolves and thieves. Each night a shepherd was designated to lie down in front of the sheepgate so no one could enter without having to pass him first. He was the protector of the flock – with his very life if need be. Each morning all the shepherds would return to this enclosure. Each shepherd would whistle or call out the names of their sheep. The sheep would know the sound of their own shepherd – they would not respond to anyone else. Their shepherd would then lead them out to safely graze in the pasture; the sheep always followed their shepherd,
Jesus is the model Good Shepherd. He cares for his sheep; they know his voice and respond to his voice. There is ownership. Jesus knows his sheep; he knows them by name. He is in loving relationship with them, willing to lay down his life for their good. We are to know Jesus’ voice and trust him unto death.
The early church adopted this image of shepherd for their leaders also. Like Christ, the leaders were to nourish and safeguard the flock. The word pastor was derived from this image. (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Yr B, 378- 379)
Let us reflect on this poem Messenger, by Mary Oliver:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.