Sunday, April 17, 2016

Shepherd and Deputy Shepherd Sunday

This Sunday's readings share a common theme starting with Psalm 23 (Dominus regit me),

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

I love John Rutter's version,

I was once asked to name my favorite Psalm, and that was it. The Lord is my Shepherd. I wonder how many sermons today omit any exposition on "thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me"?

In our next reading, Acts 9:36-43, we hear about Peter raising Tabitha from the dead. Was this the act of a "deputy shepherd"?

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
Notice that Peter never claims to be the Messiah, nor does he create a following of worshippers.

The next reading from Revelation 7:9-17 re-directs our worship towards the real Shepherd,

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing, 
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdomand thanksgiving and honourand power and mightbe to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.For this reason they are before the throne of God,   and worship him day and night within his temple,   and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;   the sun will not strike them,   nor any scorching heat;for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,   and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

And our final reading, John 10:22-30, uses Jesus' words to convince anyone who has not yet figured out the identity of the Shepherd. He also spells out the unity of himself with the Lord, the Shepherd in Psalm 23,

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 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. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’

 For once, the Lectionary editors got it right. It is nice when everything fits together so neatly. 

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