Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, April 29, 2012
[ Easter IV, Year B, RCL ]
[ The full texts for the readings can be found at: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Easter/BEaster4_RCL.html ]
In our Episcopal tradition, this Sunday is “Good Shepherd Sunday” … which makes it the “Feast of Title” of our parish here in Silver City (the only Episcopal church in Grant Co. NM).
Have a look at the Readings. They are so charming in their anthropomorphism! They take the deeply mystical concept of a creative force at the heart of Being, and they shape a Myth which, in my view, has the power to connect us emotionally to a positive and supportive and loving force as the foundation of our lives … a Rock of Faithfulness and Compassion and Justice and Mercy upon which we build our lives.
I wish that we (by which I mean Christians) paid more attention to the second of the Ten Commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth”. I think that at the heart of our “religious” problems today lies our having constructed too many idols about this Mystery we call God. We have forgotten that “God” is the definition of our character as persons, and made Him (yes, almost exclusively Him!) the Policeman of the Universe. Result? Alienation … on many levels. And I say, Rightly So … such a God deserves to be alienated.
When I was a parish priest at St. Thomas, Amenia Union NY, I brought with me one Good Shepherd Sunday, a 19th C etching of Jesus the Good Shepherd. I bought it in Connecticut at a yard sale at a Roman church I passed one day … for 25 cents. Many were the Good Shepherd Sundays I used that picture as a sermon illustration! On this particular Sunday, I used it as such … and after the service, the first female Senior Warden of St. Thomas, a superb octogenarian named Ester Pollard, marched up to me after the Liturgy and said, “That belongs here!”. She got a hammer and nail and hung it on the wall behind the raised pulpit… where it remains to this day.
The Gospel image of the Good Shepherd is so breathtakingly loving! The Good Shepherd (“God”) is faithful, self-sacrificing, lives with the sheep, intimate, accepting, valuing, honouring, protecting, sharing of and in the wandering and the trusting nature of the flock.
What is the message of the Myth in the parable of the Good Shepherd? Simply this.
If you do not have an experience of “God” that meets the picture of the Good Shepherd, you have settled for a “graven image”.