“The Lord is my shepherd,” Psalm 23 says.
In the Bible, the shepherd is a common image used to represent God. Shepherds lead their sheep. They make sure that the sheep have good food and water. They provide protection. And when a sheep is hurt, the shepherd anoints the sheep with oil, bringing healing and wholeness. The shepherd makes sure the sheep have everything needed for abundant life.
Jesus says “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). Jesus leads us, just as shepherds lead their sheep. He feeds and waters us. He cares for us. Now you may be wondering how he does this? Though the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples following his resurrection and literally fed and taught them, most of us haven’t seen him physically among us. But his body is with us. He is with us through his church – his community on Earth. Jesus shepherds his people through the life of his church.
In the book of Acts, we hear about the life of the early church. Those who had been baptized “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Through the life of the church, Jesus nourishes his people. He feeds us with his teaching revealed in the Holy Scriptures. These are the apostles’ teaching. He quenches our thirst with the water of life as we break bread together in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
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As we participate in Holy Communion, Jesus is with us. This is why it is important to go to church each Sunday. When we do, Jesus provides nourishment for our souls, the nourishment that brings life.
Through the Church, Jesus also cares for his people. This is what fellowship is about. Christian fellowship is the love and care that we show for one another. It includes our actions and prayers. As we reach out and care for each other – in good times and bad, in sickness and in health – Jesus, our good shepherd, uses his church to care for his people.
And through the church, Jesus also leads us. He leads us into the ministries that he calls us to accomplish for him. You see Jesus is not the only shepherd that scripture refers to. We, as his followers, are also called to be shepherds. You might say we are called to be junior shepherds. We are to do Jesus’ work of shepherding his people so that others will hear his word and teaching, so that others will know his love and care, so that others will experience the presence of the Good Shepherd in their lives.
We are called to use all that we are and all that we have in this effort. Acts tells us that the first Christians devoted all they had to their common life and ministry. Acts tells us that through their effort, the “Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). We are called to share what we know of God’s love and grace so that others will also know. We are called to share through our words and actions.
This will require all that we are and all that we have. This may mean feeding the hungry by collecting food for the Fort Mill Care Center Food pantry. This may mean reaching and helping a friend in need. This may mean telling a friend how God has blessed your life. Through these words and actions, we will reveal the life and love of God.
Jesus promises to be our Good Shepherd. We can count on his promise. When we follow him, he will provide with what we need for life. He will nourish us. He will care for us. He will lead us. And because he is our Good Shepherd, we will be able to share that gift with others. This is the path that leads to abundant life.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at 501 Pine St. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.