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Revd Sara's Reflections for w/c 21st April 2024

Revd Sara’s Reflection

Bible Reading: John 10:11-18 – The Good Shepherd 

What do you think Jesus meant by ‘I am the Good Shepherd’?

The metaphor of the Good Shepherd would have been understood by Jesus' original hearers, not least because theirs was a traditional farming culture. It is a context far removed from the world many of us in the UK live - mainly in towns and cities, mainly collecting our food through supermarkets.

The story that defines the Jewish audience Jesus was addressing begins with Old Testament stories of people keeping sheep and other livestock: Joseph's brothers were taking care of their father's flock when Jacob sent him to find them; David was a shepherd and Psalm 23 is a theological reflection upon God as the shepherd. The prophet Amos was also a shepherd and several of the Jewish festivals celebrate the seasons of the agricultural year.

It is also a comment on leadership - and when Jesus says this famous line, he knows that some of the Pharisees and religious leaders are listening in too. Are they being criticised by this presentation of another kind of leader?

As Richard Rohr says: ‘the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.’

Is that what the Jewish leaders become so challenged and upset by Jesus? The Pharisees could well have been deeply offended and enraged by the teaching of this upstart teacher and healer. Some of his more sympathetic auditors may have thought about their heritage and perhaps the more learned ones among them were trying to recall the scriptural references for Jesus' teaching.

In the Gospel of John, just before the passage we have read today, there is the Parable of the Shepherd that reveals further information about shepherding in 1st century Palestine (John 10.1-6). This was a physically and mentally demanding role. They were often alone in bleak, isolated settings. To prevent themselves from falling asleep and leaving their sheep unguarded, shepherds would physically act as the doors to the sheepfold so that the sheep would have to step on them in order to escape. Acting as living gates to the fold - standing guard, literally. Whilst identifying himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus pledges his willingness to die for the sheep. Whereas a hired man, when put to the test might run from danger, Jesus would remain. Jesus, having identified the contrast between the hired man and the good shepherd, goes beyond the confines of the imagery of his parable to warn of his death, giving a glimpse of the role that only he could play, for only he would willingly lay down his life to show the possibility for new life, for new possibility, for a fresh start. For resurrection.

What does being ‘the Good Shepherd’ mean to you?

How can you demonstrate ‘good shepherd’ tendencies in the roles and responsibilities you have in your life?

Responding in prayer 

Dear Lord, I come to you in prayer today, simply asking that I may grow in understanding of my reliance upon and responsibility for the natural world of which each of us are called to be stewards but from which contemporary life may feel distanced.

Heavenly Creator and Christ, I come to you in prayer today for shepherd leaders: both the leaders of nations, that they may promote the common good rather than seeking wealth or self-aggrandisement. For those who become leaders in more local contexts that they will serve sacrificially for the well-being of all.

Heavenly Spirit at the heart of all things, I come to you in prayer, in a world of plenty, for those affected by poverty in this land and worldwide. For all who are struggling to make ends meet as prices rise and their resources dwindle. For those increasingly reliant on foodbanks, debt crisis counselling, night shelters and humanitarian charities. Lastly, for myself...and in stillness, hear the invitation to bring your own prayers. [Stillness] O God, my God, hear my prayer. Amen.

love and prayers Revd Sara

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