A sermon preached on the Fourth Sunday of Easter atThe Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete, May 12, 2019 11:00 am.
Readings may be found here – we read Acts, the Psalm, and the gospel, but not the Revelation passage.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. In the Fourth Sunday of Easter the psalm is always the 23rd, and the gospel is a passage that refers to Jesus as s shepherd. This makes us the sheep in this scenario. Baaa!
So what does this say about us, and about Jesus?
The 23rd Psalm
In the 23rd Psalm we hear the line, “He revives my soul.” As those of us who were in the psalm study in Lent may recall, this is a very spiritualized translation of the Hebrew. If I were to translate this I would make it, “He saves my neck.” The word translated as soul is nefesh, which was usually translated into the Greek as psyche. But a nefesh is something that has a windpipe and is capable of breath, and the Hebrews usually thought in concrete terms. So I would make this verse, “He saves my neck”. The “still waters” are the waters necessary for life, and the shepherd protects me from that which threatens me.
Thus, Jesus as the shepherd is the one who leads us to what gives us life, and protects us from evil, and saves us.
Jesus the Shepherd
Jesus in the gospel, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
We are in a relationship with Jesus.
- We may have been brought up in that relationship since we were children, and have never known a time when we were not in that relationship.
- We may have come into that relationship later, discovering that he has always been calling our name but we have only just heard it, and responded.
- Perhaps the relationship isn’t what it might be. We’ve drifted away. But we will not be snatched out of his hand, and we reaches out again and again, and we respond in penitence and faith.
- And it is not a relationship with some teacher from 2000 years ago. No, we believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and is present to us – in the face of friend and stranger, in the face of a believer, in the words of the scriptures made flesh and blood in the lives of the saints, in the miracles and gifts that flow from the Holy Spirit he sends upon us.
What is the power of this relationship? In Acts we hear of Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, who is raised from the dead by Peter. Presumably this is not the resurrection itself to life eternal, but something temporary, like Lazarus or the son of the widow of Nain. But, none the less, even as a sign, it speaks to the life giving power of Jesus at work in Tabitha through Peter and the faith of those who called him.
Of course, we are the sheep.
Sheep are gregarious and stick together, are easily herded. Contrary to what some think, they are not stupid. I remember back in Canada building a fence to keep them out of our yard. They really like the flowers and grass in our garden. Problem was, the fence was loose between the fence posts. The sheep just rolled under the wire of the fence, until we fixed the bottom of the fence with wood. Sheep are highly motivated by food, will follow a leader, and recognize the voices of each other and of shepherds.
Do we hear the voice of Jesus calling to us? Do we recognize that he is leading us to good food and refreshing water? Do we know of his protection and saving unto life? Baaa!