Reflections on shepherds and sheep from John 10, the scripture on which Rev Pojen Lee will reflect on Sun, April 25

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.
Help someone’s soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.
Rumi

God is not a celestial prison warden jangling the keys
on a bunch of lifers–he’s a shepherd seeking for sheep,
a woman searching for coins,
a father waiting for his son. — Clarence Jordan

Songs about Shepherds and Sheep

Shepherds:
The Shepherds Song by Shanghai Quartet (instrumental)
• Shepherd’s Hymn from Beethoven’s Symphony #6
Good Shepherd by Jefferson Airplane (folk rock ballad)
The Shepherd Song by Mississippi Children’s Choir (gospel)
Shepherd’s Song by Coldcut (pop/world music)
The Shepherd’s Song by Katzenjammer (pop/dance)
The Lonely Shepherd by Andre Rieu featuring George Zamfir (instrumental)
Shepherd by Amanda Cook (Christian)
• The Shepherd’s Song (God With Us) by Hearts of Saints (Christian seasonal-Christmas)
Shepherd’s Song by Josh Garrel (Christian acoustic/seasonal-Christmas)

Sheep:
Sheep by the Housemartins (pop)
• And Dream of Sheep by Kate Bush (ballad)
Sheep by Lay and Alan Walker (K-pop/latin?)
• Sheep Song by Bad Luck (pop)
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by Set it Off (metal/rock)
Sheep by Pink Floyd (rock)
Counting Sheep by Safia (pop)
Sheep Song by Dresden Dolls (ballad/melancholy)
Baa Baa Black Sheep (children’s nursery rhyme music)
Verse on Libyan Shepherds (excerpt) — Virgil
Now, shall my verse pursue the Libyan nomads,
Their pastures, huts, their scattered settlements?
Their flocks will often, day and night for a month,
Roam and graze the empty tracts and find
No shelter in the vast expanse of land.
This African shepherd takes his world along,
His household, weapons, dog, his bow and arrows,
Much like the Roman soldier fierce in arms
Who marches forth, unfairly burdened down
By all his field equipment, and arrives
Ahead of time, to catch the foe off guard.

VI — Wendell Berry
The old shepherd comes to another lambing time,
and he gives thanks.
He has longed ever more strongly
as the weeks and months went by
for the new lives the ewes
have carried in their bellies
through the winter cold.
Now in gray early mornings of barely spring
he goes to see at last
what the night has revealed.
Through many of its generations
he has husbanded his flock …
he remembers from the time,
as sucklings, they caught his eye.
Lineages … having stayed unbroken
through many years, his flock …

Shepherd Reflections

Compassion is a Shepherd, Always tending his herd. — Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
 
It was shepherds who were the first to recognize a king that the rest of the world refused to acknowledge. — Paulo Coelho
 
… we’re lazy when it comes to doing things that are good for us; we also want someone to follow – someone to go first, for them to take the risks thereby smoothing our path; a sort of guarantee that we won’t stumble. Ironically, we also want to be followed in some way; we are both sheep and shepherd. ― Renée Paule
 
Man is not the lord of beings. Man is the shepherd of Being. — Martin Heidegger

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty. — Abraham Lincoln

Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep. — Ken Blanchard

A true shepherd leads the way. He does not merely point the way. — Leonard Ravenhill
 
Shepherds know many mysterious languages; they speak the language of sheep and dogs, language of stars and skies, flowers and herbs.
Mehmet Murat Ildan

And if the line between pasture and wilderness wasn’t clearly drawn, neither was it safely fenced, which meant that the shepherd not only had to worry about sheep wandering off but about wild animals snatching them in the dark—not to mention bandits. … had to be prepared to fight them off—that’s what that staff was for … the shepherd’s staff was a tool and a weapon. It could be used to block a sheep’s path into danger or to prod it to safety; and it could be used to beat off an attacking wolf—or an attacking human. A shepherd had to be continuously alert, always ready both to care kindly for his sheep and to do battle with enemies. “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me,” not because the shepherd looks so comfortable leaning on them, but because they show that he’s ready to defend us. — David Walbert

Christian Commentary on Shepherds

The Lord IS my shepherd. Not was, not may be, nor will be. . . is my shepherd on Sunday, is on Monday, and is through every day of the week; is in January, is in December, and every month of the year, is at home, and is in China; is in peace, and is in war; in abundance, and in penury. — Hudson Taylor

When we are fearful and worried all the time, we are living as if we don’t believe that we have a strong and able Shepherd who is tenderhearted toward us, who only leads us to good places, who protects us and lovingly watches over us. — Joseph Prince
 
You have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have the Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need. — Max Lucado
 
God has entrusted us with his most precious treasure – people. He asks us to shepherd and mold them into strong disciples, with brave faith and good character. — John Ortberg

Verses about Shepherds
 
Shepherds lift their heads,
not to gaze at a new light
but to hear angels.
― Richelle E. Goodrich
 
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him?
I give Him my heart.
Christina Rossetti
 
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work … begins:
…To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman

The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye.
Joseph Addison

Sheep Reflections
 
If sheep do not have the constant care of a shepherd, they will go the wrong way, unaware of the dangers at hand. They have been known to nibble themselves right off the side of a mountain….. And so, because sheep are sheep, they need shepherds to care for them. The welfare of sheep depends solely upon the care they get from their shepherd. Therefore, the better the shepherd, the healthier the sheep. — Kay Arthur

I am like the sick sheep that strays from the rest of the flock. Unless the Good Shepherd takes me on His shoulders and carries me back to His fold, my steps will falter, and in the very effort of rising, my feet will give way. — St. Jerome

The metaphor of the king as the shepherd of his people goes back to ancient Egypt. Perhaps the use of this particular convention is due to the fact that, being stupid, affectionate, gregarious, and easily stampeded, the societies formed by sheep are most like human ones. — Northrop Frye

Trust the Lord. He is the good shepherd. He knows His sheep. And His sheep know His voice. — M. Russell Ballard
 
Experience has taught me that the Shepherd is far more willing to show His sheep the path than the sheep are to follow. He is endlessly merciful, patient, tender, and loving. If we, His stupid and wayward sheep, really want to be led, we will without fail be led. Of that I am sure. — Elisabeth Elliot

Meditations on Psalm 23 & 1 John 1:7 – Walking in the light

Blessing the Way — Jan Richardson

With every step
you take
this blessing rises up
to meet you.

It has been waiting
long ages for you.

Look close
and you can see
the layers of it,

how it has been fashioned
by those who walked
this road before you

how it has been created
of nothing but
their determination
and their dreaming,

how it has taken
its form
from an ancient hope
that drew them forward
and made a way for them
when no way could be
seen.

Look closer
and you will see
this blessing
is not finished,

that you are part
of the path
it is preparing

that you are how
this blessing means
to be a voice
within the wilderness

and a welcome
for the way.

(Rev Gail’s note: Used as this week’s call to worship)

Meditations on Psalm 23

“… prompted by 9/11 … in the wake of the attack, everybody from my next-door neighbor to Tom Brokaw was asking me, How could God let this happen? The answer I found myself giving was that God’s promise was never that life would be fair. God’s promise was that when we have to confront the unfairness of life, we will be able to handle it because we won’t do it alone–He’ll be with us. After I’d said that a couple of times, I realized that’s the 23rd Psalm. “I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”
Sometimes people lose faith. But sometimes people lose faith in a certain childish conception of God and acquire a more mature conception of God. Paul Tillich once said, “When I was 17 I believed in God. Now that I’m 70 I still believe in God, but not the same God.” A naïve conception of God is a God who is always there to protect us. We replace it with a more realistic understanding of a God who is there to help us through the difficult times in our lives.
— Rabbi Harold Kushner, from interview on Beliefnet

As a kid, I was taught that if you opened the Bible in the middle you’d probably land on the book of Psalms. And near the middle is everyone’s favorite, the 23rd, there is this line: “You prepare a table before in the presence of my enemies.” I don’t know how many times I’ve read or recited this Psalm without pondering what that line actually means, but here is my take on it. When things are a bit tense, when life is not going at its best, when the potential for disaster is just around the corner, when your enemies are all around you – and even staring you down! – that’s when God lays out the red-checkered picnic cloth and says, “Oooo, this is a nice place. Let’s hang out here together for a while…just you and me.” ― David Brazzeal, Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul

I was silently reciting to myself the 23rd Psalm, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want …’ The man with the tinted spectacles and the man from the police department were looking at me thoughtfully. They mistook my silence as a sign of weakening. I knew I had to show courage. In fact, I felt much better for having recited the words of the psalm. I had not been so free of fear the whole evening as I was in that moment standing beside the black jeep, a symbol of repression. I lifted my head and said in a loud and firm voice, ‘I’m not guilty! I have nothing to confess.’ ― Nien Cheng, Life and Death in Shanghai

The other names sound somewhat too gloriously and majestically, and bring, as it were, an awe and fear with them, when we hear them uttered. This is the case when the Scriptures call God our Lord, King, Creator. This however, is not the case with the sweet word shepherd. It brings to the godly, when they read it or bear it, as it were a confidence, a consolation, or security like the word father. — Martin Luther, Catholic priest and reformer

It is little wonder the passage has such broad appeal. It is one of the most personal of all Scripture texts … Yet it is all about what a gracious and benevolent shepherd God is, with seemingly no expectation of our offering anything in return.
It is about pure grace.
That’s certainly a message we all need, given how impoverished and dependent we human beings are, and how we much need divine nurture and care, especially in times of loss, loneliness and distress.
But it’s not intended to give us the whole picture of our covenant with God. The other side of the story, found in multitudes of other passages, is about how God calls us and equips us to learn shepherding and nurturing ourselves, and to graciously pass on that love and care to others in need.
It’s that second calling that is so easily and so often overlooked. To a repentant Peter, Jesus’s message is that if you really love me, you will shepherd my sheep, feed my lambs, lead others to places of nourishment and growth (e.g., to “feed” them).
In other words, we are called to be both aware of our spiritual poverty, to be receivers of grace, and to be a means by which we convey grace and help to others. God’s shalom is always to be passed on … In other words, having been blessed by Psalm 23-style shepherding, we practice that same kind of shepherding toward others.  — Rev Harvey Yoder, excerpt from Mennonite blog posting.

Meditations on Light:

The Properties of Light Eric Gamalinda (excerpt)

… one of the elms
has changed early, burning with a light
grown accustomed to its own magnificence,

imperceptible until this moment when it becomes
more than itself, more than a ritual
of self-immolation. I think of sacrifice

as nourishment, the light feeding bark and veins
and blood and skin, the tree better off
for wanting nothing more. I used to imagine

the chakra like this—a hole in the soul
from the top of the head, where the light of knowing
can shimmer through. In the summer of 1979

I saw that light shoot from my brother’s forehead
as we sat chanting in a temple in Manila.
He didn’t see it pulsing like a bulb in a storm,

but he said he felt the warmth that wasn’t warmth
but peace. And I, who have never been
so privileged, since then have wondered

if we believed everything because not to believe
was to be unhappy. I’ve seen that light elsewhere
—on a river in Bangkok, or pixeled across

the shattered façades of Prague—but it is here
where I perceive its keenest rarity, where I know
it has passed over all the world, has given shape

to cities, cast glamour over the eyes of the skeptic,
so that it comes to me informed with the wonder
of many beings. I can’t begin to say how infinite I feel,

as though I were one of many a weightless absence
touches, and out of this a strange transformation:
the soul ringed with changes, as old as a tree,

as old as light. I am always learning the same thing:
there is no other way to live than this,
still, and grateful, and full of longing.

Let the Light Enter
— Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

“The Dying Words of Goethe”

“Light! more light! the shadows deepen,
And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open:
Light! more light! before I go.

“Softly let the balmy sunshine
Play around my dying bed,
E’er the dimly lighted valley
I with lonely feet must tread.

“Light! more light! for Death is weaving
Shadows ‘round my waning sight,
And I fain would gaze upon him
Through a stream of earthly light.”

Not for greater gifts of genius;
Not for thoughts more grandly bright,
All the dying poet whispers
Is a prayer for light, more light.

Heeds he not the gathered laurels,
Fading slowly from his sight;
All the poet’s aspirations
Centre in that prayer for light.

Gracious Saviour, when life’s day-dreams
Melt and vanish from the sight,
May our dim and longing vision
Then be blessed with light, more light.

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