By Karen M.
This past Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday, and John Hare shared in his sermon how Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, knows us and calls us by name. He also leads us in and out of the sheepfold. And I’d like to reflect on these two aspects of His shepherding.
John explained that the Lord’s naming of us involves intimate knowledge of how we are made and gifted, and a call on our lives. Jesus knows us. But I have to say, there’s something simultaneously wonderful and terrifying about being known.
In his first letter to the Corinthians (13:12,13) the apostle Paul describes our current state this way: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I have been fully known.” I have been fully known. The shepherd knows me. And the amazing thing is that He loves me, warts and all. It’s almost funny that I can still be tempted to try to conceal parts of my life from Him.
Psalm 139 expresses this tension. On one hand David seems to be trying to flee from this ever present Spirit of the Lord: “…if I make my bed in Sheol…If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea…If I say surely the darkness will overwhelm me….” Wherever I can imagine, the Lord my Shepherd is still there.
But in the end this is an incredible comfort! “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!” v.16,17 And ultimately, at the end of the Psalm, David invites the Lord to search him, and know his heart, to try him and know his anxious thoughts, to identify the hurtful ways in his life and lead him in the everlasting way.”
That’s what the Good shepherd does as we follow Him. He knows our hearts, our strengths and weaknesses. And He helps us identify our self-destructive ways so we can flourish in the paths he has for us.
Which leads me to a second reflection. John referenced Psalm 121, (beautifully sung with his wife Terry!) The final verse reads: “The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.”(NASB) We hear this echoed in the Gospel reading. Jesus says “I am the door, if anyone enters through me he will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9 It strikes me that we need to go in and out. Sheep can’t feed in the fold where they sleep at night. They must go out to find pasture, but outside is where the dangers are as well!
Psalm 23 gives that beautiful image of the Lord, my shepherd, leading me to the sustenance of green pasture and water, rest and righteousness. But I can also find myself in the valley of the shadow of death, or surrounded by enemies. And this is where I need to be comforted by the fact that the Lord is there with rod and staff, the rod to beat off whatever is preying on my life and soul, and the staff with it’s crook to rescue me as I head for a cliff!
But as John shared, sometimes in those dark places we can’t feel the Lord. To use St. Paul’s image from 1 Corinthians, we’re still peering though that glass, trying to catch a glimpse of Him, and the vision is often blurry at best. This is when we need to be able to call out to my shepherd, Jesus! He has a name as well. Psalm 9:10 says “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Of all the names of God in the Bible, the one that surprises me the most is “Abba”, found in Romans 8:15. “Daddy” in the vernacular, the name used for a father by his small children. Small children have a way of seeming very entitled…they climb up into their father or mother’s lap without thinking and they openly delight in a parent’s love.
The Holy Spirit is testifying to our spirits that we are God’s children, adopted into His very family. He wants that kind of relationship with us.
This week I want to rest in the image of myself in His flock, with the Shepherd who knows my name. And if I’m feeling extravagant, I may even try to see myself as a child in His arms.