Reflection 050320 May 3, 2020
Psalm 23/ John 10:1-10
The Lord Is My Shepherd
I have a confession to make; when I was younger, I wanted to adopt children instead of having biological ones because I believed procreating extra human beings while so many children in the world are without homes was wrong. Well, when my best friends adopted Cedric and Sophie and made me their mom, I thought to myself, “Careful what you wish for!” Now I am middle-aged, haven’t procreated, and ended up becoming an adoptive mom through my best friends, for which I am extremely proud. While I was reading today’s scriptures about the shepherd, it reminded me of a photo that I took while visiting my godchildren for the first time. It’s a photo of my friend Mike lying on his back with little Sophie on his belly, all cuddly. It was a surprise because Sophie is not a very affectionate child. She is emotionally independent. Mike said it was the first time Sophie was cuddly. Even to this day, this image is stuck in my head and makes my heart warm because it is proof that our children, who were born to troubled biological parents, have a second chance at life and feel safe with their new parents. More and more, they will learn to be trusting.
Reading today’s scripture readings reminds me of another person. I had a professor from Ghana in the theological school who grew up in a rural area and is well acquainted with a shepherd’s job. He explained to us one day about the shepherd’s staff and the sheep’s gate that we read in today’s scripture readings. Sheep and their shepherd have a very intimate relationship, partially because sheep are unintelligent. Because they are unintelligent, they completely trust their shepherd. Yes, they recognize their shepherd’s voice and only follow him or her. The shepherd uses his or her staff to guide the sheep; during the day by putting it on his or her shoulders, and in the dark by tapping the ground, so that they can follow the sound. Traditionally, the sheep’s den had an entrance but no door or gate to keep the sheep in. The shepherds WERE the sheep’s gate, sitting or lying down at the entrance to guard the sheep. Of course, if wolves or other wild animals came to eat the sheep, the shepherd would use the same staff to protect the sheep.
If you think about all this, you will notice how intimate this relationship is. We can see a lot of shepherd and sheep metaphors because tending sheep has been a vital part of the Palestinian lifestyle. Jesus also used fishing metaphor because he was from a fishing town. Therefore, we may not fully understand or appreciate the shepherd metaphors for our relationship with God, thus the long explanation. During these anxious times, the Good News of such an intimate imagery as that of the Good Shepherd can be especially uplifting and comforting. Imagine us as sheep and God as our shepherd. This God will call us by our names, never leave us, go out looking for us when we get lost, and fight the wolves to protect us. Remember King David who wrote Psalm 23 while he was fleeing from his rebellious son. If a betrayed father whose life was in danger can feel safe like a sheep trusting its shepherd, why couldn’t we?
I pray that we will all feel safe like sheep trusting their shepherd during this global trauma. Let us consider our confinement as the safe embrace of our shepherd protecting us and keeping us safe. Let us listen to our shepherd whispering, “It’s dangerous out there, so I am keeping you safe. Be patient because the storm will pass. Meanwhile, enjoy this intimate time with me. Be my baby as you once were.” Let us trust our shepherd and have peace and joy in our hearts.