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The Shepherd

May 2, 2020

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

Today is Day 48. Tomorrow, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year on this Sunday we hear a section of John 10. Each year we intone that most familiar of psalms, number 23.

This year the shadow of death’s dark valley has a longer reach. More than 60,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Death has come to the Grace community again this week. How long, O Lord, will we have to walk through this valley? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

The comfort of Psalm 23 is in the promise. In between the green pastures at the beginning and the spread feast at the end is the journey through the dark valley. The Shepherd, however, is not only waiting for us at journey’s end. The Shepherd walks with us each step of the way.

Yes, the shadow is long. But it is only a shadow. Empty. Powerless. The light of Easter breaks over the horizon. The Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep now walks with us. We receive, Jesus promises, life that is not simply eternal. It is also abundant. Life that is therefore forever overflowing with grace and mercy. I shall not want.

During my unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) I was tasked at times with leading worship in the dementia ward. When it was first my turn, since I was a brilliant seminarian (ha), I foolishly planned a service. Sermon and all. It did not get off to a good start. My words held no meaning. A kind CNA came over and said to me, “Use words they know.”

I started with Psalm 23, KJV, and listened as old lips gave voice to long-loved words of hope and comfort. The Shepherd still knew how to speak to these beloved souls. They were slowing forgetting who they were. But Jesus hadn’t forgotten them. He journeyed with them in death’s valley, and would guide their faltering steps all the way to the eternal table of grace.

You have been gifted with life, eternal and abundant. Jesus walks with you. He will not forsake you. He will get you were you’re going. Don’t worry about the shadow. As a friend reminded me this week, shadows are only there because the light is shining. Walk with the Shepherd who illumines the valley, one step at a time. We’ll get there.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Good Shepherd, thank you for walking with me. Tune my ears to hear your voice. In the midst of danger, give peace. In the fear of scarcity, help us share abundance. Let me rest in your green pastures of grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The photo was taken in the summer of 2018 when my family and I visited Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Plover, WI, where I served my internship in 2000-2001. Good Shepherd is a place of grace and mercy whose people helped me understand what it means to be a pastor. They will always have a special place in my heart.

From → COVID-19

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