April 26

What is a Good Shepherd?

I love looking at the stars that speckle a clear night sky. According to a Google search, scientists believe that there are 100 BILLION observable galaxies. The Milky Way itself consists of around 300 BILLION stars. Not every galaxy is treated equally, but I think you get the point. There are a LOT of stars, and those are the ones that scientists deem ‘observable’.

The closest star to earth (Proxima Centauri) is located 4.25 light years away? If we were to send our most powerful telescope to that star and look back this way, the earth could not be seen. Keep in mind that the sun is the only ‘star’ in our solar system, just a speck the Milky Way galaxy.

On this Sunday when we have multiple texts describing our Lord as a Shepherd, I decided to take a moment to reflect on the question, what is a Good Shepherd? To confess that the Lord is my Shepherd, we are implying a profound working relationship between a human being and his/her Creator. It is connecting dust to divine purpose. We were created from dust with purpose and known and loved individually by Christ, even though we are no more than a grain of dust in the desert of the universe.

After my maternal grandmother passed away in 2009, my mom and her siblings decided to give me most of grandma’s theological books. One of the books is written by W. Phillip Keller and is titled, ‘A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23’.

Most of us are not familiar with the lifestyles and responsibilities of shepherds today. But writing with references to shepherds during the days of the Psalms and Gospels would be like referencing computers today. Everyone understood shepherding. Let me share a couple of thoughts regarding the first line of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’.

I love the last sentence. It was written with the very nature of Christ in mind. “Yet despite these adverse characteristics Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own, and delights in caring for us.”

Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand runs away from trouble because he does not care for the sheep.” There is a difference between a committed shepherd and a person going through the motions.

We certainly know that sheep are completely dependent upon the shepherd for guidance, protection, and care. Jesus calls us his sheep. He has promised to be with us until the end of time. His love and his grace provides us the freedom to live without fear. He has invested his life in us and has a vested interest in our lives.

THAT is the most powerful love and grace in life; generous and genuine compassion to the point of laying one’s life down for another without conditions to be met. Jesus Christ alone is the Good News. Amen.