Scripture - John 10:11-18, Psalm 23
John 10:11-18 (New Revised Standard Version)
11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The 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. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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.”
Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff--
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
A couple weeks ago, this video was making the rounds on the internet:
[show sheep video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLZW-kWr1F4]
I mean, how many of us can identify a bit with the sheep? Just absolutely stuck, caught in a rut, totally trapped by our circumstances and surrounding -- and just when we get bailed out, somehow find ourselves back in a similar place? I mean - we are just a people who sometimes can’t seem to get out of our own way - thank goodness for Jesus as a shepherd who is there to pull us out again and again and again!
This passage from John of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is paired with Psalm 23 in the lectionary - in the first passage, Jesus himself shares about the relationship between himself, the sheep, the hired hand, the wolf that comes to scatter -- how the shepherd lays down his life for his flock. In Psalm 23, the relationship becomes personal, as the psalmist gives life and imagery to God’s provision, protection, and guidance throughout all of life.
The assumption can be made that hearers of Jesus’s words would be familiar with the psalms - as the Psalms were the prayer book of our ancestors in faith. The Psalms aren’t teachings or law or stories like other parts of Scripture - the psalms is a collection of prayers. Poems. Words that reveal the depth of the human condition and give full expression to human emotion - words that contain praises to God, anger at God, fear in the face of foes, condemnation of others -- if it’s an emotion, it’s in there. The Psalms lend themselves so well to being pondered and reflected upon - as they touch places and feelings in our own lives and experiences.
Above all, they are meant to convey intimacy with God. From UCC WorshipWays, “Some are prayerful pleadings for God to act. Some are simply are prayerful reflections on how grief was transformed into trust, fear was transformed into faith, joy shared, contentment cultivated, and praise unrelentingly released. All of them are prayers meant to speak to experience and to give people words to pray when we need the voice of experience and wisdom, or somewhere outside ourselves to turn.”
This morning - I invite us to consider our own relationship with Jesus as shepherd - and we’ll use Psalm 23 as inspiration for us to write honestly about our own experience and connection with God. We’ll each rewrite Psalm 23 in our own prayer words. Here’s how we’ll do that:
Here are a few personal rewrites from Sunday!
Psalm 23 - Gloria Brown
Jesus, my shepherd, you provide everything I need.
You give me rest and calm my spirit.
You are my source of courage to continue in your mission.
When darkness comes, you cast out its evil and help me go on.
You provide abundantly and hold me up above my enemies.
When I am with you, I feel blessed and gifted.
My hopes are in a long life under your direction and protection on earth and then in heaven.
Psalm 23 - Lola Armstrong
God is my internet search app.
God has answers to all my wonderings.
God makes me pause pulling me away from the hectic virtual world of more questions than answers to the calm outside of cyberspace.
He sends me outside to streams and meadows.
His reality restores my body and mind.
He leads me away from the virtual to the suffering of others
To offer help and comfort in his name.
Sometimes on a hazardous path, I’m afraid
but holding his hand, I know I am not alone and continue on.
God, you feed me — bless me— I have more than I need.
So while I will live in comfort in your house,
I will share what I have in this your world
Where there is cruelty, hunger, and thirst.
Psalm 23 - Melissa Yosua-Davis
Jesus shepherds me - I have everything I need.
I find places of rest and grace and abundance, and again my spirit is renewed.
His voice calls to me through the Spirit, leading me to wherever he is present.
In hard and difficult times, You are close by my side, acknowledging my fears and helping me be brave.
Those who would oppose me have no bearing on my place in your great love, for nothing can take that away.
I am forever your child, in this life and beyond.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.