john 10 ,ezekial 4, psalm 23
I am going to tie five things up together today
• Our personal experience
• The experience of sheep
• How that ties into todays story and todays psalm
• How our psalm and our story intertwine
• How all of that is borne out by our personal experience
First a question today, who has felt the lord’s presence in the last two years of lockdown and beyond?
IF YOU ARE READING THIS ONLINE – pause for a moment and think
Who here feels guided by our lord?
Who here has felt comforted by our lord at various times
Remember those answers
However to something slightly different
As a boy from Forest Gate, you can imagine my sheep husbandry skills are somewhat limited.
I took Lauren to the lambing at Marsh Farm children’s farm one year is about it.
So, I had to check that whether sheep must be chased by a sheepdog or whether they will indeed follow the shepherd?
What do we think, chase, or follow?
First, I discovered sheep aren’t stupid, they are among the most intelligent of farm animals, second only to pigs.
I found out they will follow someone they trust, and you only have to get the lead sheep to follow and the whole flock will follow.
But they must trust the shepherd, and they have to be fed when they follow. If the food stops the lead sheep will feel tricked and then won’t want to follow.
However once trained, the shepherd can get the lead sheep’s attention by calling them.
So our lords metaphor works well.
Sheep dogs do work as we all know,
Sheep dogs it turns out is the sheep running from a threat, the flight response. A sheep dog knows it and turns the lead sheep and the others follow. The sheep dog causes enough fear to move the sheep but not enough to kill the sheep through stress. This is why your domestic dog getting into a field of sheep can cause such harm, they just scare the sheep to death, literally. A trained sheepdog will harry the sheep just enough.
So chasing the sheep causes fear, trusting the shepherd means the sheep follows his guidance through trust.
How does that metaphor work for us. How does our lord lead his sheep, how does he tend them, wy and why do we follow?
In simple terms
Our lord wants us to trust him, the sheep do have a choice. They aren’t stupid
Those who do so, can hear his voice through prayer and the holy spirit. So we can follow him.
As jesus says “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. “
Our psalm this morning explains the why way better than I ever could.
Jesus leans heavily on the Psalms and our psalm, psalm 23 would be well known to his audience.
Our passage this morning leans on that psalm.
The lord as the psalm says is our shepherd that means we shall not want? Where green pastures wait for his sheep where we lay down, which means an abundance of everything we need. So we want for nothing, Our food is the bread from heaven, and we trust our shepherd, and that’s we we follow him
The Psalm makes it clear we still have enemies and we do still suffer, and all walk in the valley of the shadow of death in this plane. But that he is present in the suffering, indeed a shepherd’s rod is used to protect the flock from suffering (literally to defend from anything that attacks his sheep) and his staff is held wide and used to guide his sheep.
But suffering is part of our lives, even though we are protected and guided, our shepherd is always present and never sleeps. With his rod and staff to both protect us and guide us. The man nailed to that cross, suffered with us and for us, and stays with us to this very day.
Through this suffering our lord made it so we can be with him, guided by him by hearing his voice more clearly as eternity roles onwards.
In Ezekiel It is prophesied that the lord will become our shepherd because the Israelites were doing such a bad job and they are berated for not looking after all his sheep, including the poor and the weak. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.
Today’s reading is our lord assuming that role of the shepherd. The role of guiding us and protecting us, as he says My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
The reason why they follow and do not perish is explained in our psalm today this is where they intertwine, Jesus is the act, and our psalm is the why
Because Jesus is my shepherd, we shall not want.
2 Because he makes us lie down in green pastures,
where the bread of heaven is abundant, so we have everything we want
so we trust him and follow him
he leads us beside still waters where we will be refreshed by him
3 And where he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in the right paths to eternity with him[c]
for his name’s sake.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Going back to our gospel today
This is why we hear his voice, and follow , this is why we trust him, this is why we belong to him, and he will I give us eternal life, and we will never perish. And as Jesus repeats twice to make sure he has been heard. This is why nobody will snatch us out of his hand, because the father and he are one. United in the desire to bring his creation close, in a loving trusting relationship, led to eternity.
This makes us part of a story, all of us who put our hands up, were predicted by Ezekiel, spoken about in the psalms, , and claimed by Jesus.
We are here today part of that story, an active living thing going on every day for eternity.
This is why so many of us feel him guiding us, this is why we feel guided and comforted by him. This is why we feel protected by our lord. It is literally our reading and our psalm in action. In our lives, for eternity