Liturgically, this week’s Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. This is reflected in the assigned scriptures for this week, Psalm 23 and these words from John 10: 11 & 14. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me …” Early in John 10, we are told that the sheep follows its shepherd because that the sheep knows the shepherd’s voice.
Let’s be clear: we are the sheep and Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Often the Good Shepherd’s voice is “hidden” in a whole chorus of other voices calling out to us. These voices are very attractive and they seek to tempt us away from the Good Shepherd, the joy of His forgiveness and acceptance and the security of His love. If we are not careful or if we are weak and confused, we may follow those other voices.
John M. Braaten in “The Greatest Wonder of All,” tells the story of an American tourist who was traveling in the Mid-East. He came upon three shepherds whose flocks had intermingled while drinking water from a brook. After an exchange of greetings, one of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and called out, “Manah. Manah. Manah.” (Manah means “follow me” in Arabic.) Immediately, his sheep separated themselves from the rest and followed him.
Then one of the two remaining shepherds called out, “Manah. Manah.” and his sheep left the common flock to follow him. The traveler then said to the third shepherd, “I would like to try that. Let me put on your cloak and turban and see if I can get the rest of the sheep to follow me.”
The shepherd smiled knowingly as the traveler wrapped himself in the cloak, put the turban on his head and called out, “Manah. Manah.” The sheep did not respond to the stranger’s voice. Not one of them moved toward him.
The traveler asked, “Will the sheep ever follow someone other than you?” “Oh yes,” the shepherd replied, “sometimes a sheep gets sick, and then it will follow anyone.”
Most of us have been there at some point in our lives. Battered by the storms of life and distracted by voices urging us to go this way and that, many of us lost our bearings and didn’t know where we were or where we were going. That can be more than a little frightening; it leads to despair, to hopelessness. And in those moments, we tend to be prone to follow any voice that promises a moment of happiness or a brief feeling of peace or forgetfulness.
The scriptures for this week give us “Good News from The Good Shepherd.” It gives us a sense that we are someone special because we belong to the Good Shepherd. God is still speaking through the voice of the Good Shepherd reaching out to us that we might follow Him.
So join us in worship at Covenant this Good Shepherd Sunday. I will be preaching about “Good News from the Good Shepherd” based on Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18. Hope to see you there!