Across the Pastor’s Desk: This is Good Shepherd Sunday

Published 8:00 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

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Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose

Don Rose

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. The gospel reading always comes from the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John and the appointed psalm is Psalm 23. This psalm is perhaps one of the most familiar and favorite of all of the psalms. Though read a few times as a part of Sunday worship, it is most frequently heard perhaps at funerals. Though that is certainly an appropriate occasion for its use, it is at the same time limiting in its ability to address life at other times as well.

The psalm is certainly pastoral in its words of comfort and assurance, not just for those facing the reality of death in their lives, but for any who experience dark days in the midst of life’s journey. The psalmist speaks of trust in a God who cares and provides for those who are in any need. This God is present and grants a secure foundation in the midst of the vagaries of life lived in a fallen and broken world. The assurance comes in the words “for you.” God promises to be with you, to lead you and to guide you even in the most challenging of times.

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Note that there is no promise that challenges will not arise in life even for the most faithful. Rather the promise is that God will be with God’s children in the midst of those times and will not abandon them.

It should be noted that the psalm is ultimately political as well as pastoral. To think of God in terms of shepherd is to recall the language and custom of the ancient Near East when kings were understood to be shepherds who served on God’s behalf. To call God shepherd is to proclaim that God is the ultimate center of one’s allegiance. To call God shepherd is to put one’s trust in God alone, not in the deceitful powers and forces of this world. To call God shepherd is to be committed to following wherever God might lead.

Pastoral and yet more, Psalm 23 is a psalm that speaks not only to times of death but to everyday life as well. It is a psalm of strength and encouragement for faithful living in a world that is often in opposition to the message of God’s love, grace and forgiveness as revealed in the savior. Pray this psalm. Sing this psalm. Make this your own.

Don Rose is pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.