Call to worship
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we reflect on Jesus as our Good Shepherd. A good shepherd never deals harshly with his sheep. Rather, he tenderly calls them by name, and they follow him toward safety and home. Whether we are faithful or lost, the love of the Good Shepherd tenderly holds and carries us always.
- To the point: Jesus states clearly that he came so that his followers might have abundant Life. Jesus uses the metaphor of a caring shepherd and sheep to indicate how his followers might receive that life by hearing his voice and their name, by following the Good Shepherd, by recognizing whose voice calls them. Hearing, following, recognizing: we are to open our ears in faith, open our hearts in trust, open our minds in love. This is the way to abundant life. The Gate is wide open. Will we enter?
- Connecting the Gospel to the second reading: The shepherd “walks ahead” (Gospel) of the sheep who are to “follow in his footsteps” (Second Reading). Following Jesus leads to insult, suffering, judgment, and the cross. But it also leads us even further—to abundant Life.
- Connecting the Gospel to experience: We encounter gates in many areas of our lives. There are gated communities, entry gates for theater and sporting events, toll gates. These gates separate, close open, keep out. Jesus is the Gate who excludes no one, calls each by name, opens us to abundant Life.
In Jesus’ day, when many shepherds took small herds to Jerusalem, instead of keeping the different flocks separate they put all of them together into one big sheepfold.
Funneled like this, flocks became one big fuzzy mob. They had no brands or markings — nothing by which to tell them apart. The only way a shepherd could retrieve the sheep that belonged to him was by his voice. It was a much-loved sound issued from the person who had shielded them from wolves, led them to fresh pastures, held them tenderly. He called them each by name.
He had been with them on the hillsides; they were no longer strangers to him. He knew the one with a nick in its ear, the one with the marked face, the one that limped. Each one had a unique personality. When they heard their names called by the beloved voice, they followed. As a shepherd called sheep by name, the magnificent God of the universe calls each of us by a unique name. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
The name he has for us finds its way down to the deepest interior of our souls. It calls us to be who we most truly are. Despite wolves and wildness around us, Christ’s call is safe. His voice lets our fear drop away; it lets us follow our master and friend around rocks and through dark valleys when we stray. He is the shepherd who will leave the whole flock to look for one lost sheep. Even when his voice might get drowned out, or we may ignore it, resist it, or button our ears to it — in our moments of sane and solitary wholeness — in our times of trouble — our spirits pulse to the rhythm of God’s resonance which echoes within us.
(John 10: 1-10)
He walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
The shepherd knows his sheep.
And the sheep know him.
He calls each of them by name.
O Christ, we cry out for you to shepherd us right now.
We long to hear you call our names, to listen to your gentle voice,
and follow you out of this violent world to a safe place.
Please, walk ahead of us and we will follow.
Let us offer to one another your abounding life and love.
The First Reading
(Acts 2: 14a, 36-41)
Repent and be baptized, every one of you.
Cut to the heart, they were baptized.
Three thousand followed him,
just as sheep follow a shepherd.
Dear Shepherd Lord,
open up our hearts to you.
Let us listen as your Spirit speaks in us.
Bring all your children, near and far, to live in your love.
The Second Reading
(1 Peter 2: 20b-45)
By his wounds you have been healed.
Christ, we stray like sheep. And you,
Good Shepherd, you gather us lost ones.
We so need your shepherding now.
No more wars, trafficking, no more hunger
and school shootings. Never again. Let our hearts
follow your healing.
Copyright © 2023, Anne M. Osdieck
Music for reflection