We often refer to this Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Eastertide, as Good Shepherd Sunday. Some of our most beloved—and simultaneously puzzling—readings fall on this Sunday, Psalm 23 and John 10:1-18, the Good Shepherd Discourse. Both of these passages describe and offer great comfort in the image of God as a loving, compassionate, and trustworthy shepherd to us in our sheepliness. Yes, I made that up, but I know you know what I mean.
I urge you all to engage with these texts on Sunday, whether or not you tune into the National Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Incarnation in the morning, or join us for Evening Prayer at Trinity at 5pm online. Take time to meditate on the passages, ideally with someone else but on your own is good too. The Holy Spirit has brought these passages around for a most timely blessing. Not only for the comfort they give, but for their strangeness that draws us more deeply into the Scripture.
How exactly does God provide us with tender grass and soothing water? Why should I be comforted by the whipping stick? What does it mean that God sets up a table for me with my enemies watching? Divorced as we are from the life of ancient sheep herding, it requires prayerful study for us to draw all the spiritual wisdom from this psalm.
The Gospel is no less puzzling with the many characters in its parable. Who are the thieves and outlaws who threaten the sheep? What does it mean that Jesus is the “gate” it the sheepfold, if there is also a gatekeeper? And if Jesus is also the shepherd who goes through the gate? What do all these things mean for us as the sheep? How do we discern the true voice of the shepherd in a noisy world?
Clergy everywhere will strive to break open these holy readings on Sunday—and you should try to listen to at least one of them—but this week is a particularly good time to sit down and have a heart to heart with God’s Word. Open yourself up to revelation and transformation in this season when we need a good shepherd more than ever.