Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 21, 2013
“The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep” (John 10:14-15, 22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)
Today is what is usually called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Every year on this Sunday in the Easter season, the theme of all the parts of the service is Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, his flock, the church. He lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again–that’s the Easter connection. On Good Shepherd Sunday, the Holy Gospel is always a portion of John 10, in which Jesus identifies himself as that shepherd several times. The other two readings also fit the theme of Christ as shepherd. The Introit and Collect of the Day, likewise. The appointed psalm, of course, is always Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” And the Hymn of the Day is a musical setting of the 23rd Psalm, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” which we just sang. So we always have a very clear theme to work with on this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is why we call it “Good Shepherd Sunday.”
Take, for example, our readings for today. In the first reading, from Acts 20, the Apostle Paul uses shepherding language when he instructs the elders of Ephesus on their task as pastors: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,” Paul says. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock,” and so on. In the reading from Revelation, we see the multitude arrayed in white, and we’re told that “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.” And in the Holy Gospel, from John 10, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” So we have shepherd imagery throughout.
Now what does this have to do with us? Well, “we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand,” as Psalm 95 says. We are those sheep for whom the Good Shepherd lays down his life and takes it up again. We are members of Christ’s flock, the church. We are being led to those heavenly springs of water. We hear our shepherd’s voice, and we follow him. All this by God’s grace, of course, since we sheep would be lost forever without our Good Shepherd.
Today I want you to see yourself, to see your identity, as part of Christ’s flock, his church, and to appreciate all the more all that your Good Shepherd does for you. For truly, “The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep.”