The Holy Gospel: April 29, 2012 (Year B)

Read:  John 10:11-18

Meditation:  “Good Shepherds”

If you have followed this blog for a while, you have seen previous posts in which I have commended the image of “shepherd” as a much-needed model for ministry.  Today’s lesson focuses our attention on that very image.  And it is one needed outside the church, as well as inside.  It is an image for every Christian to embrace.

It is the image of laying down our lives for the sheep.  In Jesus’ case that was a literal death, for most of us it will be relative surrender.

It is a surrender based on love, or as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, a “strength to love.”  It is love that creates courage.

Somewhere around 400 a.d. Peter Chrysologus put the same notion into words: “The force of love makes a person brave, because genuine love counts nothing as hard, or bitter, or serious, or deadly” (Sermon 40).

This is because the shepherd always values people above things—persons above projects—individuals above institutions.  The shepherd will “lay down his life for the sheep” whenever anyone or anything threatens to harm them.

We have correctly applied this to the clergy and other religious professionals.  But if we limit it to them, we will not have taken Jesus’ words to their full meaning.  The heart of the shepherd is intended to beat within any believer.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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