Shepherd of the Shepherd Psalm 23

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are thankful to God for their moms and wives said … AMEN!

“A census taker was making his rounds in the lower East side of New York, he interviewed an Irish woman bending over her washtub. “Lady, I am taking the census. What’s your name? How many children you have?” She replied, “Well, let me see. My name is Mary. And there’s Marcia, and Duggie, and Amy, and Patrick, and…” “Never mind the names,” he broke in, “just give me the numbers.” She stood up, hands on hips, a twinkle in her eye, said, “I’ll have ye know, sir, we ain’t got into numberin’ them yet. We ain’t run out of names!” The image of God as the Good Shepherd tells us that is the way it is with God. He knows us by name.”[1]

Pastors are shepherds. You will see many references to pastors being “under – shepherds” to Jesus who is the over-shepherd, the high ultimate pastor. I see pastors as sort of spiritual referees. Referees enforce the rules,… big reason to enforce the rules? No one gets hurt. Everyone can play the sport to the best of their ability, not breaking the rules or making it my way. Having a “level-playing” field. There are exceptions, Lebron James being one, yap, yap, yap. I will concede that it’s odd having NBA playoffs and no Lebron, but fer sure, do not miss the yap. Respect yes, but not a fan.

I do respect, referees, officials, well there was this one back in York…[sounding like Lurch], but they have a tough job. Most of them have been athletes so they know the thrill of accomplishment and sports is so much of that. Not to the point society has confused it today that sports is some be all, end all, but something that allows for achievement, don’t get me started on “participation” trophies “everyone’s a winner”. In a sense they are, those who actually get out there, put their best effort forward, except on Sunday mornings and week days when I’m having confirmation class. I have a “love- hate relationship”, in this for me. Pastors are kind of referees, and we’re also supposed to be coaches, genuine leaders, and a lot more, all wrapped up in one for Jesus. The referee part? There are rules, these are rules that have developed over hundreds, if not thousands of years. Rules were given to us by God. You could say rules have been changed in a lot of things. We know longer throw basketballs with laces on them into peach buckets. Dr James Naismith did not speak to Red Auerbach from Mount Sinai to receive the rules of basketball: “thou shalt not put an elbow into your opponents face. Thou shalt not, like LeBron, run from the top of the key to the basketball shoving everyone out of the way holding the ball the whole way and then yap at the ref that someone fouled him. I am a little hung up on Lebron.

Yes, basketball rules, ways that we do things, all sorts of man-made rules that get changed, most for good reasons, a lot for bad reasons, “that was the popular thing” is usually a bad reason. The Christian Church has rules that come from a much higher authority than James Naismith, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, whichever boogey man du jour is. As a pastor, that under-shepherd, the one given the authority to guide Jesus’ church, wherever that may be, I am required to abide by God’s authority given to His church in order for His church to function properly. There are people who will tell you what it’s really about and don’t let the facts get in the way. Much like Lebron and his helping the referees after every single play. We played a school in Arkansas, apparently the refs there either had different rules or early dinner reservations. They weren’t calling any fouls, and so I was put in to start the second half in order to push back. For my very first play I literally clotheslined the guy coming down the baseline with the ball. I raised my arm expecting to be called for the foul and the play was already past half court. Obviously these guys weren’t really concerned for the well-being of the players or for an orderly, competitive game. They had other interests and if someone got hurt, well Que Sera. Way too many people in the world like that. Too concerned with making their life easier and happier and if someone gets caught up and hurt in it, hey, not my problem. As Christians we are called to the highest authority, pastors are more so called. The under-shepherd is not there to blow the whistle on every ticky-tack traveling call. Probably one way that many in the church, and especially those that call themselves churches and have pastors who have little or no genuine training and pretty much “teach” what they “think” people should hear, instead of the time tested teachings that the church holds as truth. The church exists to provide leadership and protect in God’s teachings, which includes men who are truly qualified and enjoined to teach truth. Protection ultimately comes in the truth and we under-shepherds are about your spiritual protection and doing what is necessary for you to be delivered into eternal salvation. Any playing around with those instructions by a pastor leaves you unprotected and raises grave questions about the pastor. Those are questions I want to answer as forthrightly as possible when I stand before God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word in the Hebrew is y[iªro÷ ”Roeh” describing someone who is responsible to “pasture”, to “tend”. Interestingly the Hebrew also “to associate with, to be a friend”. The shepherd not only knows the name of each sheep, but has a particular whistle for each sheep. Many of the most memorable passages of Scripture come from the Psalms, I can’t help but refer to Psalm 23. Certainly it is about the Lord being my shepherd on this “Good Shepherd Sunday”. Dr Martin Luther writes: “The 23rd psalm is a psalm of thanks in which a Christian heart praises and thanks God for teaching him and keeping him on the right way, comforting and protecting him in every danger through His Holy Word.”[2] That comfort, protection is to get us to that idyllic place promised by the psalmist. “laying down in green pastures”, beside still waters” to the post- modern ear doesn’t sound all that whoopee do! But if you look at the cover photo, one I took in Israel, does not look very inviting. Imagine how content the sheep would be if they had nice thick, lush grass to eat and lie down on. Further the shepherd leads them besides still waters. This may be a statement of complete, almost unattainable bliss. Dr McGee writes that sheep are frightened by turbulent water, can’t drink comfortably from turbulent water, but they don’t like stagnant water either. In Israel there isn’t a lot of in between. Most water is pretty stagnant in Israel or a few rushing rivers like the Jordan. I’m the under shepherd here, doing my best to lead everyone besides those parts of our lives that truly glorify God, give Him thanks for all that we have, but just like the shepherd, prepared to defend the flock, to do all I can to keep the wolves, bears of the world from scattering and feasting on the flock. Who’s the Good Shepherd in every home? Yea, dad/hubby, he leads us to those green pastures, to those still waters as best as he can. We husbands serve our wives to the best of our ability, often without getting a lot of notice, but let’s face how much recognition or appreciation does the shepherd get from a flock of sheep. Godly moms and wives know how much their shepherd serves them and make sure he knows they are grateful for their service. We show our appreciation to our mom and wife for all they do, but doing all we can do to serve with our lives and our works to make her life better. As Christian men we are called to serve our wives every day, and our wives give us the respect we need. As shepherds we take the lead as the shepherd does when he is moving his sheep in Israel, in order to lead our wife and mother to green pastures and still waters. In the eternal resurrection, the world will be so lush fields, the still waters. Dr McGee writes: “When sheep are lying down in green pastures, it means they have their tummies full. And Christ is our sufficiency…” Total, complete contentment. There is nothing else that is needed, complete peace, everything is provided for you. The contentment of being in the very presence of the Good Shepherd, who has given us the assurance of our complete peace and provision. There will be no wolves or bears, there will be nothing that will lead us to sin or separation from God. We will be completely protected from sin and there will never be any threats to our living in the very presence of God who has lead us to safety, peace and eternal perfect life in the new world of the resurrection. We will know that peace and contentment in the world of the resurrection.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom. Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words, www.Sermons.com

[2] Reading the Psalms with Luther p 59

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