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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The fifth page for Sunday, May 3, 2009

This past Sunday we had a modified worship service, to accommodate the wonderful opportunity to have a group of puppeteers from a neighbouring United Church congregation present their version of the “Good Shepherd” reading from the Gospel of John. Their teacher had sent me the script in advance, so I had a good idea of the ground they would be covering. (That script is available to be read on the Trinity website, under “worship services”.) In order to keep a worship service that also included the celebration of the sacrament of communion within the usual length of about an hour, I ended up preparing a one page sermon rather than the typical four page effort. So there really isn’t a “fifth page” this week.

One thought I would like to have developed if there had been time on Sunday, would have been the matter of social status or respectability, versus humility and service to others. Several of the biblical commentators I consulted made the point that in the society in which Jesus lived, the occupation of shepherd was very low on the status ladder. Most of us living in this time have no direct connection to agriculture or animal husbandry, and have only vague ideas of what a shepherd’s life would be like. The highly romanticized and idealized image of the “Good Shepherd” is all most of us have to go on- that, and the stylized symbol of a shepherd’s crook as held by bishops, cardinals, and popes.

It seems to me that in John’s Gospel, when Jesus is presented as naming himself as the “Good Shepherd”, he is calling us to follow him, and also be shepherds of the “sheep”- the people in our lives who need help and direction, love and guidance. I do not think he is calling us to place ourselves above people, but rather, to make sacrifices and be humbled, as we love others in God’s name.