Psalm 23/ John 10:22-30
Family: Circle of Trust
Forming a Relationship of Trust
My cat Melody and I have been together for almost 10 years. She’s a shy cat. It took several months till she let me pick her up, and now, she sleeps with me with her backside exposed, which is a sign of trust. She also lets me put my hand on her neck and trusts that I won’t harm her. That trust has been earned over a long period of time.
After my best friends adopted my godchildren, it took probably 2 years for hem to be fully attached to their new parents. They trust my friends fully now, which was also earned from commitment of love and care.
What Makes a Family
Since I have a lot of friends who have a difficult relationship with their families, I have a wider concept of family than regular people. My best friend and I consider each other as more than friends. We are family although we are not related by blood or law. That is why my godchildren call me Mama and I call them “my” children.”
I understand that blood and law are not what make a family; it’s a relationship of trust. A family’s love is based on commitment and trust regardless of one’s genetics or legal status.
Sheep and Shepherd
Today, we read two biblical texts that use the relationship between sheep and the shepherd as an analogy for a trusting relationship. Now, unless you grew up in a farm and tending sheep was one of your daily duties, you cannot fully understand this analogy. David sang the song “The Lord is My Shepherd” because he grew up as a shepherd. He fully understood this relationship.
Sheep are not animals known for their intelligence. These simple animals forge a trusting relationship with their shepherd and follow them, and only them. A shepherd uses a staff to guide the sheep; during the day, by placing it on their shoulders so the sheep can see it, and during the night, by tapping on the ground with it so they can follow the sound. The sheep have the ability to recognize their shepherd’s voice and do not follow anyone else.
That is why in John chapter 10, Jesus tells the Jews that the reason why they don’t believe in his teachings is because they are not his sheep. They don’t believe in him or trust him as their spiritual guide because they don’t belong to him.
Shepherds make a lot of sacrifices to take care of the sheep. Earlier in chapter 10 that we didn’t read today, Jesus also says that he is the sheep’s gate. In case you never heard this, sheep’s den didn’t have a gate to keep the sheep inside. The shepherds had to sit at the entrance and literally became the gate to protect the sheep. They would sit there and doze off during the night, and in case an animal came to eat the sheep, they would fight it off with their rod. Staff is for guiding and rod is for fighting off predators. The sheep learn to trust their shepherds thanks to this kind of commitment. Commitment and trust are what make a family.
The Lord Is My Shepherd
What does trust look like? We witnessed one example in Psalm 23. In this psalm, David professes his total trust in God even though, as I once told you, he wrote this psalm while hiding from his son who wanted to take his throne. In this betrayal and fear, instead of praying, “Why are you putting me through this when I have been a faithful servant of yours,” he professed his trusting relationship with God. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
What does he mean by this? He is obviously in want of safety and an obedient son. But he professes that God is his shepherd and provides him with all that he needs, as he has been a loving and trustworthy shepherd to his sheep when he was a boy. Even while he is hiding from his son’s army that wants to kill him, he professes that he doesn’t fear, for God’s metaphorical staff and rod comfort him. What a trusting child of God David was!
Ruth and Naomi as a Family
We listened to the story of Ruth and Naomi during the story time. Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law. Even after her husband died, Ruth didn’t leave Naomi to go back to her homeland alone.
Ancient Israel was an extremely difficult place to survive for women who had no sons or husbands. Ruth and Naomi kept being each other’s family and helped each other survive. Naomi was not really Ruth’s mother, but she loved and took care of her as one; this is a relationship based on commitment and trust. This is what a true family looks like. On this Mother’s Day, we see a mother’s love in the story of Naomi and Ruth.
Do you have people in your lives with whom you have such a relationship? Maybe you have such a relationship with your blood or legal family. Or maybe, like a lot of people in my life, you don’t. But maybe you have other people in your lives with whom you have a relationship based on commitment and trust. They are your people, your family.
I hope and pray that you will learn to consider these people as your family whether you are related to them or not. Expanding our concept of family brings us double and triple the joy if we already have a loving and trustworthy family. It gives us comfort if we don’t, in the knowledge that we can form our own families in our lives. The love and trust that we may or may not get from our own families, we can have them from our chosen families.
On this Mother’s Day and Christian Family Sunday, let us look at people in our lives and choose our families. Let us understand that God’s family is so much larger than what we usually perceive as a family.
Let us love one another, forge loving and trusting relationships in our lives, be a trusting and loving family to others, and be filled with joy and gratitude from our loving relationships. Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who are mothers, women who don’t have children but can be mother figures, and men who act as mothers. Happy family day for all of us.