Acts 9:36-43 Psalm 23 Revelation 7:9-17 John 10:22-30
After returning from vacation I saw a Facebook post of my graduation from Seminary 10 years ago. I also saw posts and received emails which spoke of this Sunday as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” I did not know this was “Good Shepherd” Sunday. I must have missed the class in seminary that gave names to the various Sundays that are not feast days. I guess I still have some things to learn, as do all who have just graduated or who are about to walk for their diplomas.
Today’s readings are certainly appropriate for us to focus our attention on Jesus being the Good Shepherd, especially with our use of Psalm 23, but as Sunday’s go, it is crowded with completing concerns. Graduations have or are about to take place and today is Mother’s Day. In addition, there have been school shooting as the school year comes to a close and flooding and storms are affecting many in our nation. All of these events, some good, some bad, have been competing for our attention this past week. I, for one, have experienced a wide range of emotions as I have prayed for victims, families, graduates, and mother’s – both alive and death.
Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the women in our lives who have taught us how to love. As we do so, however, I want to acknowledge that for some Mother’s Day is difficult. Not all of us have been blessed to have a warm and caring mother in childhood. Still, most of us have experienced such love from a woman who stepped up and fulfilled that role for us – even if it wasn’t our birth mother. So, on this day, let us honor mothers and surrogate mothers who have sought to care for our physical and spiritual needs. Let us honor the compassionate women we hold close in our hearts even if they are no longer physically present in our lives.
This Mother’s Day I am especially reminded of the fact that this day is particularly painful for some mothers. The mothers of the victims of school shootings, the mothers who had a child die – from any cause, are mourning their loss. In addition, those of us whose mother’s have died, are reminded of our loss on Mother’s Day.
Our pain and grief needs to be acknowledged on this day. Acknowledging our feelings helps us to set them aside and remember and celebrate the joy and comfort our mothers, birth mothers, adoptive mothers, or surrogate mothers – shared with us.
The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is wonderful in that it reminds us God wants to lead us through the heart ache of grief and the valley of the shadow of death, and into green pastures where he has prepared a banquet for us. But there is another image of Christ that comes to my mind today. In Matthew, Jesus in on the Mount of Olives, looking across to Jerusalem and laments, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you are not willing.”
Jesus as mother – that’s an image that is appropriate for us reflect upon today. Like the Good Shepherd, who gathers his flock, the hen gathers its brood of chicks in order to protect them. In Christ we can find comfort as we experience the range of emotions from weeks like this. In Christ, we can find strength and guidance to face the days to come. The Good Mother, like the Good Shepherd offers this to us, and for this gift we give thanks and celebrate our mothers.
My own mother helped me face many of the changes I have experienced in life – moving from one school to another, moving out to attend college, marriage, parenthood, and other pivotal moments. Graduation is one of those pivotal moments which marks significant changes in our lives.
Change, even positive change, such as graduation can be stressful for students and parents alike. Relationships with family and friends are evolving into something new and different after graduation. Relationships are always evolving – but graduation brings about major changes as some graduates leave while others stay. Some relationships begin to fade away after graduation while others grow stronger.
In the gospel, the people are wanting to know if Jesus is the messiah, they want to know if they should follow him, so they ask, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus says he has told them, but they did not understand. He goes on to speak of himself as a shepherd, and his disciples as sheep, saying, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”
Not exactly the plain speech the people are asking for, but clear enough for us today who know Jesus is the messiah. We are not expecting the messiah to lead an uprising, as they did. And, perhaps because we do not keep sheep, many of us love the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd. The one who will lead us beside still waters to green pastures is not taking us to the other side of the fence where the grass is greener, the house is bigger, and the cars are newer.
Jesus is leading us into a deeper relationship with him. So, wherever graduation may take our seniors, and whatever else our mothers want for us, our mothers and God desire us to experience peace within our souls. So Jesus, the Good Shepherd is leading us to the place were our hearts can e filled and we are safe. And, like our mother’s love which offers us comfort when the world is cruel, Jesus offers us peace in the midst of all that is happening in the world around us today, and the uncertainty of our future.
Let us pray.
Loving God, you send your Son to show us the way to peace and love. Help us to follow him that we might experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.