Today the fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The readings always come from John 10 and Psalm 23 is set for recitation. It’s an opportunity to reflect on Christ’s offering of himself for the sake of the flock and his ongoing care for His people. Many preachers use the occasion to offer their insights into the nature of the Churches pastoral ministry. Anglican ordinands are charged to set the pattern of the Good Shepherd always before them as the pattern of their calling. In many ways the imagery is strange and counter-cultural. After all in animal husbandry good shepherds don’t lay down their lives for the sheep the sheep lay down their lives for them. In some contemporary Christian circles the term shepherding is associated with an authoritarian style which many Christians find disquieting.
My favourite illustration for this day comes from my Uncle who was an agricultural scientist but worked on a Welsh sheep farm as a placement in his student years. He recalled carrying lambs over his shoulders in a manner often portrayed in icons and stained glass windows. His most vivid memory of these moments was of the lamb urinating down his back and inside his jacket. No doubt pastoral ministry often feels just like that and perhaps it should.
Grace, mercy and peace,