Sermons from St
Fr John Reed. Sunday, 22nd April, 2018
When I was made a deacon in 1996 Bishop David Sheppard presided at the service. It was the last deaconing before he retired. When we were looking at the order of service he happened to comment; “I don’t normally let them choose that hymn for a service in the Cathedral, but it’s my last one and I quite like it, so I didn’t say anything”. The hymn was 'Faithful Shepherd feed me'. It’s listed under Holy Communion hymns in the old A&M, but has the feel of a Edwardian children’s hymn. It speaks of a reliance on Jesus, the ultimate Good Shepherd, firstly for sustenance and secondly for guidance and a reassuring presence “in the narrow way.” It’s the classic very rural, very English, pastoral view of the Good Shepherd. The one who seeks the lost sheep, the one who is pictured in stained glass in many English churches.
The Good shepherd in Johns Gospel cares for the sheep, and is willing to lay down his life for them. He is contrasted with the hired hand who in the final analysis, given a dangerous situation with a wolf chooses his life above the flock’s welfare.
There is in this passage a sideways glance at past kings and rulers of the Jewish people. They were known as Shepherds, and sadly as we see today, the welfare of all the sheep in the flock or the people of the nation is not always the top priority in governing. And given that all are Gods people, then through the prophets God’s anger is directed to bad shepherds who fail to live up to the care the flock deserve.
It is said in the Holy Lland that when two flocks of sheep meet at a watering place, the Shepherd will always leave with all the sheep he comes with. Unlike our country where the shepherd walks behind the sheep assisted by one or two dogs, the middle eastern shepherd walks ahead of his sheep and calls them like we would call a dog. The sheep know his voice and that is why the shepherd always leaves with the same sheep he arrived at the watering place with. It all begs the question in this life do we know the voice of the Good Shepherd in the midst of the many and competing demands of this world. The sheep learn the shepherds voice, a voice that brings them through danger to food and water. It is about dependence and the knowledge that there is only Shepherd who can do this. Sheep that stay in a sheep pen will eventually starve, so do not crave for a safe existence following the Good Shepherd. We would all love to be sheep No. 100 from the story of the lost sheep safely held in the shepherd's arms.
As Peter and the disciples found before the
temple authorities, God in sending Jesus to die upon the
cross as the one who saves, literally turns the world
upside down. The rejected stone of the temple is
now the corner stone, the most important stone which the
new creation is built on. The path before them was
not easy and we should not expect ours to be.
The ordination service talks about keeping the
example of the Good Shepherd before our eyes. I
think Bishop David Sheppard, although loving the hymn
'Faithful Shepherd', was aware that others might focus
on him rather than the true Shepherd. It was a
mark of his humility. Any honest minister would say that
while we strive to be like Jesus, we have long way to
It would be great if vocation was clear cut, if
like Moses we all heard God speak through a burning
bush, or like St. Paul had a dramatic Damascus road
experience. But it doesn’t work that way for many.
Yes I shall seek to find