We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Voices on Good Shepherd Sunday

1. Br. James Koester, SSJE/

The good news is that we don’t need to be perfect. We only need to be found. We give thanks that the Good Shepherd continues to search for us, so that one day we will be found, gathered into his arms, and brought home.

2. David Lose – "God is Not Done Yet"

Amid Jesus’ discourse on being “the good shepherd,” what jumped out to me this time was Jesus’ simply but bold assertion that, “I 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.” Have you ever noticed that before? Or, more than notice it, have you ever given much thought to its theological and homiletical implications? 

What strikes me is that, quite simply, Jesus isn’t done yet. Despite his healings, despite his preaching, despite all that he had already done and planned to do, Jesus isn’t done yet. He still has more sheep to reach, sheep that are not in this fold. By extension, I’d suggest that God isn’t done yet, either. And this matters for at least three reasons. 

First, God continues to call people from all walks of life, from every nation on the face of the earth, and from each and every generation across the nearly two thousand years since Jesus first uttered those words until today. If that were not true, you and I would not have come to faith and we certainly would not be giving our lives to the task and joy of proclaiming the Gospel. 

Second, God is at work in our midst and through us and our congregations to extend the invitation to abundant life offered by the Good Shepherd. We probably know that, but do our people? Do they imagine, that is, that God is using their lives and words to invite others to faith? Can they imagine that simply by praying for someone or inviting someone to church they might be the vessel by which God continues to reach out and embrace God’s beloved sheep from beyond this fold? Perhaps kindling their imagination might prepare them to be equipped to do just that. 

Third, the members who will one day constitute Jesus’ flock are beyond our imagining. There is a tremendous expansiveness to Jesus’ statement here, and we do not know – for neither Jesus nor John tells us – just what are the limits of the fold Jesus describes. All we know is that Jesus – and therefore God – isn’t done yet. Jesus is still calling, God is still searching, and in time we will all be, as Jesus says, one flock under one shepherd. 

I think this third point is the one that most animates my imagination, because I know more and more people who are worried about friends and family members who no longer go to church, who don’t necessarily identify as Christian anymore, or who have married people of other faiths. And while I don’t think the sermon is the best place to hash out the merits of a universalist versus particularist view of salvation, I do think we can say with confidence that God is not done yet, that God works in ways beyond our imagining to bring together one flock, and that Jesus Christ’s mercy and grace are for all. What makes me bold to proclaim these promises even though I don’t know for sure the fate of the various people you and I and our people are concerned about? Just this: Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one who laid down his life for the sheep – all the sheep! – and who was raised to life once again, validating his sacrifice and promise. Which means, I think, that while we may not know all that God has in mind for those who have followed different paths, I nevertheless trust them all to the mercy and grace of the Good Shepherd.

3. Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis -" Jesus, the ideal shepher, the model shepherd" – From OnScripture

Jesus is the ideal shepherd, the model shepherd, the best kind of shepherd; the one who makes the promises of God available to all of God’s people by laying down his life for the sheep.

I had not yet made the leap but most certainly have now to verse 16 in our text for this week.

I 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.

This loving Shepherd has a huge and diverse flock. I spent three days last week with some of them, some of the greatest theological minds in the nation—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Sikh—in a cohort of leaders committed to the interreligious movement for justice. All of us are sheep—gregarious like sheep, independent and likely to chart a new path to green pastures, all of us working so hard that we need God to help us to lie down there and drink living waters and to have our breath and souls restored. These amazing leaders belong to the Good Shepherd. I know this now; they are listening to God’s voice in their own languages, with their own symbols and rituals and sacred texts. Like me, they are seeking love and justice and peace. We are one flock, beloved by one shepherd who anoints us with the oil of gladness and with a spirit of boldness to work fervently for a more just society in which all lives matter and in which everyone has enough.

When I was in seminary, I happened upon Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Daybreak Books, 1970). The shepherd imagery in our sacred texts burst into my imagination in so many new ways.

Human beings are remarkably like sheep. Sociable. Gregarious. Prone to wander of the path in search of greener grass. Needing to be rescued from the wilderness and the wild things that live in it. Occasionally that wild thing is in us.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life, not just for the sheep that stay in the fold, who keep to the path, who follow the Shepherd willingly, but for all of the sheep. Those who are sick and needing special care. Those whose bodies need healing oil. Those who fall down and can’t get up by themselves. Those who have lost their way and need help getting home.

My shepherd also deeply cares for those who have broken the rules, those who have transgressed and need to be forgiven. Those who have been locked up and isolated for crimes and who need to be restored to life ‘on the outside.’ Those who are disenfranchised and need to find their way back into right relationship with their families and communities. My shepherd binds up the broken hearted, breaks the chains of injustice, and releases the captives for rehabilitation.

We are, all of us, capable of great love and compassion. We are also, all of us, capable of breaking the rules, making regrettable decisions, and suffering the consequences of stepping off the right path. There is danger off the path, there are predators off the path, and there is injury off the path. And the Shepherd rights our way.

We are the sheep of God’s pasture, God is our God (Ezekiel 34:31) and the Good Shepherd puts his life on the line to save us from harm, to protect us from the wild in the wilderness. The Good Shepherd restores our souls and heals the world.

In this Eastertide, here is what love looks like to me: Jesus lays down his life for the sheep. For all of the sheep. For all of the people. This is about relationship and intimacy. Between God and Jesus, and among God’s people. I believe there are no outsiders in the Reign of God. Jesus leads the way to abundant life because he is the life. For all of the sheep. All of the sheep hear Jesus’ voice and recognize it. It is spoken in the ethic of love. It is spoken in acts of justice and compassion. It is spoken in healing and restoration. It is spoken in connection and community. It is spoken in forgiveness and reconciliation.

4. "The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols" – Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant 

The symbolism of the shepherd also contains the sense of a wisdom which is both intuitive and the fruit of experience. The shepherd symbolizes watchfulness. His duties entail the constant exercise of vigilance. He is awake and watching. Hence he is compared with the Sun, which sees all things, and with the king. Furthermore, since, as we have stated, the shepherd symbolizes the nomad, he is rootless and stands for the soul which is not a native of this Earth but always a stranger and pilgrim. In so far as his flock is concerned, the shepherd acts as a guardian and to this is linked knowledge, since he knows what pasture suits the animals in his charge. He observes the Heavens, the Sun, the Moon and the stars and can predict the weather. He distinguishes sounds and hears the noise of approaching wolves, as well as the bleating of lost sheep. 

Through the different duties which he performs, he is regarded as a wise man whose activities are the result of contemplation and inner vision.

5.  Jean Vanier "Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John"

To become a good shepherd is to come out of the shell of selfishness in order to be attentive to those for whom we are responsible so as to reveal to them their fundamental beauty and value and help them to grow and become fully alive.