The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Psalm 23 NRSV
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” John 10:14 NRSV
This past Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday. I have long loved that particular Sunday because my cousin, Ginger, raised sheep on the family farm in Union county. Whenever I read or hear these passages I always think of her. The flock has been greatly reduced over the years, and she now keeps only a very few sheep. But she called me last week with the good news of the birth of a baby lamb. I love to go out to the farm and look at the fluffy, white animals standing on their skinny little legs. They all have names, and Ginger can tell you the family tree of each one. “That one is Joy. She is the daughter of Happy and the granddaughter of Peony. That one over there is her older sister, Snowflake, who wandered down into the creek last May and had to be rescued.” And on and on she can go, pointing out each one and telling something about its life. Now truly they all just look like sheep to me, I can’t tell one from another. But Ginger can. Not only that, but when she stands by the gate and calls, “Here, Sheep!” they will all come trotting up to her looking expectantly for the treat she usually had in her pockets. Many times I tried to call them, using the same words and holding out treats in my hands. But they never come to me. They do not know me. They do not trust me to do for them what was right and good.
I have seen Ginger weep over the birth of a stillborn lamb, and do a happy dance when healthy twins were born. I have seen her count the flock at night and come up one short and go out in rain or snow to find that one who had wandered away from the flock.
Both the Old and New Testaments tell us that we have a good shepherd. One who knows us by name, and that we can trust to lead us through the dark valleys that surely come to each of us in our lives. We have a shepherd who will see us through those hard days and lovingly gives us guidance and shelter, food and rest. When we feel as if we are being pursued by troubles, the Psalm tells us that we need not fear enemies because our Shepherd gives us protection and blessing. If we look behind us, we will not see enemies pursuing us, but goodness and mercy following us. All our lives long.
These are days that feel strange and scary and often lonely. It is good to remember that we have a shepherd who goes with us, guards and guides us through these days and all days.
Good Shepherd, you are our guardian and our guide. We need you to help us through these strange and uncertain times. When we feel as if we do not know where to turn, tune our hearts to hear you call us by our names. Help us to recognize your voice and follow you. For in your light we see light, and in your presence we find rest. And we thank you. Amen.
Jesus, Tender Shepherd
Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me; Bless thy little lamb tonight. Through the darkness be Thou near me; watch my sleep ‘til morning light; When I’m troubled and afraid I will trust in thee and pray Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me Bless thy little lamb tonight Bless thy little lamb tonight.
Pastor Rachel Moser