This coming Sunday of the church year is often called "Good Shepherd Sunday." In our reading for today Jesus begins by calling himself the Good Shepherd, alluding to Ezekiel 34:11ff. According to Jesus, a good shepherd stands apart from a hired hand, because the shepherd is willing to give up their life for the sheep. This willingness to sacrifice is rooted in the love and care the shepherd feels for the ones the shepherd tends to. The sheep trust the shepherd because they know the shepherd. Jesus, our good shepherd, promises to lead us into green pastures--to give us the safety and freedom to enjoy them without fear, while he stands by to protect us. This freedom is pure grace for us. We, like sheep, do nothing to earn the sacrificial love of our good shepherd, who lays down his "life for us "of the shepherd's own accord."
Shepherding God, thank you for the freedom you have given us through your son, our Good Shepherd. We pray for all those in our world who live in fear, that Jesus' loving and guiding presence would be a constant source of peace and strength. Amen.
John 10:11-18 (NRSV)
11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away--and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."