The Good Shepherd

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The Good Shepherd: A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

There is something about this virus that is a thief and a bandit. It has entered our lives by the back door and taken our freedom. It creeps up on the old and the already weak, and it attacks those who try to respond with help. The thief comes to kill and destroy. The contrast with the actions of the shepherd are total.

At the end of each day at the moment, like so many others, we check in with those we shepherd here from home. Our daughter is away from us, living elsewhere in order to do her work in the management of the local hospital. Sharing in the leadership of the Covid response, and having had the virus herself, the hours have been long and the stories challenging. Now there are two jobs to do at once, with the need to return cancer care as soon as possible. We pray for her daily. The Covid thief has tried to break in to the NHS but it has failed. Whilst there are so many sad and real stories, there are also the untold victories, like the sending home of healed elderly patients and the restoration of loved ones to families who have been unable to visit. As a people in this country, we are being shepherded amazingly by all our health workers. We pray for them daily too.

Jesus told this story not to make us feel like sheep under threat, but to remind us that he is there too. The Good Shepherd is a title given to Jesus from this Gospel reading. Always there for us, in good weather and in the storms of life, Jesus guards us, guides us, and feeds us. Nothing will separate the Good Shepherd from those in his care, not even death. That is the continuing message of Easter. The thief is not death itself, but the absence of hope. Jesus says to us today, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ That means abundant life now and abundant (but different) life to come.

Merciful Father,

you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,

and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:

keep us always under his protection,

and give us grace to follow in his steps;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

The Very Revd Stephen Lake.


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