We are city folk now – or suburban at least – although just a generation or two ago, the place where my church stood was surrounded by dairy farms. Even though animal husbandry is within living memory of some in the congregation, I’m betting the shepherd imagery in many of our readings and hymns will seem pretty quaint and far away for most folks who I’ll see this week.
And anyway, I’m noticing that most of the modern commentary I read in preparation for Good Shepherd Sunday does seem to emphasize the gentle nurturing of our Savior. I’m betting, though, that shepherding in the first century had a lot more to do with whacking wild animals with big sticks, practicing creative out-in-the-field midwifery, and staying up all night to catch the thieves climbing over the fence than it did with cuddling anything as fluffy, sweet and clean as this.
However, we are talking about preaching here, not quibbling over farming techniques. And a word of comfort, solace and protection may be just what your congregation is hungry for, in which case John 10 and Psalm 23 are ready and waiting for you. On the other hand, you might want to look at the abundant life promised by Christ in community, as you continue your pre-Pentecost series on the post-Pentecost church in Acts. Or, perhaps you are going in a different direction altogether.
Whatever you are thinking or preaching about this week, (or if you are a shepherd willing to share a real life story or two of your life in the pasture) we’d love to hear from you in the comments.