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The Good Shepherd

weekly theme #25*

week containing the fourth Sunday of Easter

As I prayed for each home on my cal-de-sac, I realized how long it had been since I visited with some of them.  The beginning verses of Jeremiah rebuke the leaders of Israel for being Shepherds who have mistreated their flock.  I’m sort of the Shepherd of my cal-de-sac as an overflow of being a disciple of Jesus.  I have mistreated these in my care by neglect.  Along that line, Ezekiel 34:11-16 begins with the familiar description of the caring, sacrificing, and loving Shepherd tending his needy sheep.  The tone changes at the end of the reading – “But I will destroy those [sheep] who are fat and powerful.  I will feed them, yes – feed them justice!”  (verse 16b)  Am I a “fat and powerful” sheep who withholds charity from other sheep?

Neglect is not a term I would use for my Shepherd, Jesus.  When I say that I can’t sense God or that he is distant from me, the truth is that I have distanced myself from him.  I created the separation.  I can take as a fact that no matter what I have done or wherever I find myself, there is a path back to the Shepherd from that very place.  The Shepherd longs for me.

I struggle with Christians who have the mindset of ethics by law.  Some Christians seem to be more interested in making laws than making disciples.  Jesus’ compassion, his mercy, is in opposition to the idea of making laws that externally try to force people to do what is “right”.  Jesus’ ethics comes from within me, from the Holy Spirit. Inside of me, of any believer, can be the fruit and ethics of the Holy Spirit, oozing out into the fruitless exterior filled with anger, judgment, and hypocrisy.  Paul’s counsel regarding the selection of church leaders describes people who live in step with Holy Spirit and exhibit corresponding behaviors in their everyday lives.  Sheep need to focus on the Shepherd, not other sheep.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”  Psalm 23 says the Shepherd provides rest, guidance, strength, protection, comfort, belonging, love, and hope.  These qualities connect well with 1 Peter 2:21-25, which says the Shepherd did not protect himself but sacrificed himself to save his sheep.  The Lord is my Shepherd, I have (he is) everything I need.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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