Date: 29 Apr 2000
Time: 01:49:39

Comment

It's Good Shepherd Sunday and Mother's Day in North America. An interesting mix. The first time I preached this text, a beloved parishoner decided I was his "Little Bo Peep." The sentiment was nice and appreciated but that's no the point of the text. Jesus is the true shepherd who will do anything for his sheep. Us, preachers, are his sheep dogs - nipp'n at heels, bark'n to move the flock, stay'n close on cold nights in the wilderness. Jesus is the only one who gives it all for we sheep. This is a great post-Easter story. And although it's tempting to go to other shepherd passages. Let's stay with John's intent. What do you think it is?

Elizabeth


Date: 03 May 2000
Time: 16:38:52

Comment

What is the point? It is not to make an alligory saying that we are sheep dogs. It is not about keeping people in line.

It is about unconditional love. It says love is stronger than fear!


Date: 04 May 2000
Time: 06:59:36

Comment

I think the passage is about Jesus being the boss not the hired hand. He is the Shepherd - the owner and in charge. Often I think we try to limit Jesus and keep him as the hired hand whom we can control. But he shouts out no - I am not the hired hand but the owner. Do we allow him to be our owner? Are we one of his flock, listening to his voice and heeding his call. Do we fully understand that as the owner he has chosen to be in charge. Some thoughts. Working on it still - Marilyn in NY


Date: 04 May 2000
Time: 11:20:31

Comment

Jesus is the great shepard with unconditional love. Like the love of his father giving love where none can be earned. Sounds like the good parent doesn't it? Listen to the christian gospel song song no-charge. The song of a mothers unsacrificing love to her child at not charge. Agreat leadin to Sundays message written word for word. GOD'S PEACE jcny


Date: 05 May 2000
Time: 14:54:36

Comment

Elizabeth,

I like your image of we being sheepdogs. Not just nipping at the heels of the sheep, but in keeping the sheep moving in the direction of the shepherd. Sheepdogs are not more important than the shepherd, but they, like the sheep, know the shepherds voice. They have to be faithful in their service, courageous when faced with obsticles. But always, always, they hear the shepherds whistles, and calls, and signals telling them what they are to do. Don't know how that preaches for you for mother's day...well maybe.

clw in co


Date: 05 May 2000
Time: 16:07:59

Comment

I'm going to be on vacation this Sunday (some ask where one goes on vacation when you live at the beach in NC?!), but I've been talking to a lay leader who will be leading worship this Sunday. She will be tying together the themes of the Good Shepherd and Mother's Day - it seems a good time to talk about the feminine side of God, those nurturing aspects of God's character that these passages point to. I also like the fact that, in Israel, the shepherd leads the sheep instead of driving them or sending the sheep dog to do the work. The shepherd always goes before the sheep. It reminds me of something written in the sixties about "Settler Theology," comparing two kinds of theologies - one where Jesus is the town sherrif, making sure everyone stays in line, with a "Pioneer Theology" that has Jesus as the scout, going before the pioneers, showing them the way. I found it in a book by Mark Link. I think it was called, "He Is The Still Point In A Turning World," or something to that effect.

I like to emphasize to my people what it means to be a sheep. Sheepdogs will not do. Sheep are ornry, stupid - in fact, if the lead sheep goes over a cliff, the others will follow. The also stink. My wife's grandfather used to have to herd sheep when he was young. It was always a job given to the lowest of the low (usually kids) because no one else wanted the job. Afterwards, he couldn't stand to even think of eating one (not out of love or respect!). Of course, we always had lamb for Easter, which brought up an interesting situation. Once we decided to have him and his wife for Easter. We were having lamb, so everyone just agreed not to tell him what it was. Unfortunately my wife's uncle, a real joker, was also with us. Half way through the meal, he asked him, "How's the meat pop? Done o.k. for you?" Grandpa answered, "As long as it doesn't say, 'Moo!'" To which her uncle replied, "How about if it says, "Baaaaa!?" Of course, pop turned three shades of green and left the table.

Gary in New Bern http://www.standy.org


Date: 05 May 2000
Time: 20:45:37

Comment

Gary in New Bern (And any others considering looking at the femine side of our Creator:

If you have the time, it may be worth your while to wade through the Web Theology site and find the discussion we had on this very topic. Although there is a fair share of back-and-forth bickering, there are some powerful images and testamonies that are worth attention! It is a strong testamony to the femine face of God.

------------------

On another point:

Verse 10:16 talks about other sheep. Any insight, thought, or ideas of who these 'other sheep' may be? I've heard some say "Gentiles," some say "other world religions," some say "people living in other parts of the world," and several other ideas. I don't know what to think.

Peace,

DWR


Date: 06 May 2000
Time: 14:58:44

Comment

Will we recognize his voice?

In so many of the resurrection stories, people who knew and loved Jesus had trouble recognizing him. In one account we are told no one dared ask who it was for they knew it was the Lord, but why would anyone even say that unless it was difficult recognizing the risen Lord?

There are many portraits of Jesus. They are beautiful in their own ways. How silly it would be if we rejected most of them saying "Jesus did not look like that" because it does not fit with our favorite one, perhaps Soloman's head of Christ!

A new portrait of Jesus will reach millions of people this week through a tv miniseries. I hope it is very good. It would be nice if we preachers could have had an early screening that we might use this tool to encourage our people to notice certain things.

Perhaps some of us won't even recognize Jesus but the tv guide says it is a fresh look at Jesus geared for us in the 21st century. Can we handle that?

It is a very old tradition for ecclesiastical leadership to be very uncomfortable with the fresh approach of Jesus. I think the question is always "Will we recognize him?" Another question for us as preachers, when people recognize the Lord in this new portrait, will they find our guidance to be helpful and gracious? Will we be helpful in assimilating new portraits of Jesus into the community of faith or will ecclesiastical leaders feel uncomfortable with a portrait of Jesus on which we, the church, do not own the copywrite?

Will the scriptures take on new life again this week in light of a new portrait of Jesus? Will there be a new spirit of hope and joy amoung us? Surely the Lord will speak to us in a new way but part of our task is to discern the voice of the master which may come through the new portrait but is not synonomous with the voice of the film maker. The 77 version of Jesus of Nazareth was wonderful. I hope this new portrait has that kind of refreshing quality.

What have you heard about it? Any ideas on how we can best use this new tool? Manzel


Date: 06 May 2000
Time: 17:40:45

Comment

I lay down my life

... (active) rejected, suffered, crucified ... (passive) humility, detachment, obedient faith, darkness

to take it up again

... risen, new creation, rebirth, restoration, affirmation ... light

Jesus as Good Shepherd leads us safely along unknown paths to green pastures ...

tom in ga


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 03:29:32

Comment

Elizabeth,

Thank you for your comment regarding sheepdogs. However I think it may add something to the passage that isn't intended to be there. Leadership in the church is an important issue, but Jesus, in this passage, seems to talk only about sheep (i.e. lay and ordained together). It's very much a corporate dimension that he's talking about. The issue of leadership does get picked up, I believe, when Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd." Good, as in a model for us to follow. (This needs a bit more thought).

God bless,

Graham


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 12:15:54

Comment

Dear All,

I think the really interesting question stemming from this passage is whether our knowledge of the common and ordinary informs our understanding of God, or whether our knowledge of God informs our understanding of the common and ordinary. To put it another way, do we know more about God because of the shepherd metaphor, or do we know more about shepherd through our knowledge of Jesus?

I came to the conclusion some years ago that most of what I know about sheep and shepherds comes to me from my upbringing in the Church, and the many agricultural metaphors which Jesus used. Problem is, of course, that Jesus used these metaphors to teach about himself and God, not the other way around. I made the mistake of preaching about sheep one sunday, "how dumb they are", only to discover that a real shepherd was in the congregation. He took me seriously to task for my ignorance about sheep, and he was right so to do.

Having said all that, it does rather seem to me that the image of a "good shepherd" is one who puts his life on the line for those in his care. If that be so, it comes as no surprise to us that Jesus puts his life on the line for you and me.

Peace to all,

Jim


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 14:18:51

Comment

First Comment: How do you all get going so early in the week? I'm still reeling from yesterday, and sipping my cup of Monday morning coffee, and here you've already been pondering for next week! I'm impressed.

Second Comment: Last year, I preached a Mother's Day sermon entitled "The Mother Heart of God," and I looked at many of the Old Testament Passages that allude to "mothering" aspects of God, many but not all from Isaiah. In researching for that sermon, I remember that I looked into the beginnings of Mother's Day and discovered that they were to honor not necessarily mothers, but rather to bring attention to the work that women did in bringing better health systems for children, ceasing war that killed their children, bringing humanitarian concerns across national and political lines. In other words, Compassionate action was being honored.

I think this might fit nicely with this scripture, the compassionate Shepherd, who will lay down his life for the sheep.

Still pondering early in the week,

Jude in Wash.


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 15:31:44

Comment

I appreciate the upbraiding Jim received when speaking of "dumb sheep." I received a similar (but good-natured) response at Christmastime when I spoke of how the *shepherds* were dirty, superstitious, non-observant religiously, etc....all bad Scripture scholarship, incidentally, and also not very good for the egos of the shepherds in the congregation.

Seems to me that if we can say anything about the sheep, it's how *important* they are - to the shepherd. As in the parable of leaving the ninety-nine to find the one, where the "foolishness" of the shepherd indicates to us how much he cares about each one, the fact that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep is a comparison to Christ's self-sacrificing love for all.

Two illustrations: Barclay mentions several OT references showing how the shepherd was expected, obligated, to put his life on the line for the sheep. One that he mentions is that a shepherd couldn't simply claim that a sheep was attacked by a lion; he must salvage a leg or a piece of an ear "from the lion's mouth" as proof....or he would have to pay the price for the lost sheep. (Barclay, Gospel of John, Vol. 2, Westminster Press, 1977, pp. 60-61.) Also, Bill Bausch, in More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories (Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT, 1994, pp. 152-153) mentions how the sheep were kept within a stone fence, to which there was an opening, but no gate. At night, the shepherd placed his body across the opening and slept there. Any wolf or thief would have to deal with the shepherd first; the shepherd literally "laid down his life" for the sheep.

All of which points to how important the sheep were for the community - for obvious reasons, the people needed the sheep to survive. We are that important to God; not that God needs us to survive, but that God - in Christ - loves us that much.

I think that I'm going to start with Mother's Day and talk about the self-sacrifice of mothers, then move to the self-sacrificing shepherd image. I'm interested in any stories anyone might have of maternal self-sacrifice that aren't silly or sappy, and that are believable, if not actually verifiable (!)

Thanks for any responses. (Hope that "silly, sappy" remark isn't offensive; it's not meant to be...I just think we can sentimentalize Mother's Day (or the Good Shepherd, for that matter!) if we're not careful!)

Metz in Indiana


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 16:37:08

Comment

I have a couple of women have buried their mothers over the past few months and two families have lost a son and a daughter. I know the "mother's" would have gladly laid down their own lives for their child, but could not. Suggestions how I can lift up Mother's Day, this Scripture and preach healing? There are many within my congregation whose children are "lost" needing a good shepherd. Suggestions to get me going? Rev WWM


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 18:51:24

Comment

I really appreaciate this Website. It has really helped my preaching. But I had an experience on Sunday afternoon I wanted to mention. I was recalling my sermon. I had SO MANY good ideas from the commentaries and this website that I think I gave what I might call a "laundry list" sermon. A laundry list sermon is when you list a number of good points without going terribly in depth with anyone of them. I thought on Sunday afternoon that had I had less material to work with, I might have been more creative with it. I don't know if anyone else has experienced this, but I thought I would mention it.

Alex in Clyde.


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 19:01:13

Comment

I am thinking about Mother's Day and the Lectionary:

Rudolf Bultman writes about this passage: "Just as all the waters of the earth point to the one living water, and as all bread on the earth points to the one bread of life, and as all day-light points to the true light of the world, just as every earthly vine is contrasted with the "true" vine, so too every shepherd is contrasted with the "good" shepherd. Shepherding in the world is only an image and pointer to the true, proper shepherding which is shown in the rule of the Revealer [Christ]. It is in this sense that Jesus is the GOOD shepherd." --Gospel of John

I am wondering if you could write a sermon where you say that all good mothering points to a divine source? All mothering points to the divine presence that nurtures, cares, humors, and is with us night and day..........

Alex in Clyde.


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 21:39:10

Comment

I have a couple of women who have buried their mothers over the past few months. I have also two families who have buried a son and daughter. How do you lift up mother's day, this scripture and preach healing? Suggestions?

For many, Mother's day is a painful reminder that their Mothers are no longer with them. For some it is painful because they can not have children of their own. For others it is a reminder that their children are alienated from them. Holidays are not warm fuzzies for everyone. I would love your input!!

Peace. Rev WWM


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 21:49:17

Comment

Yes, Alex, I believe such a sermon exists. I am using Old Testament scriptures like Isaiah 42:14; 46:3-4; 66:12-13, 49:15; Hosea 11:1, 3, and 4; 13:8, and then New Testament Luke 13:34 (or Matthew 213: 37. All describe acts of God that are clothed in mothering imagery. Obviously, there must be something in the "Mother Heart of God" that can best be described in mothering as we know it. Human mothering will always fall short of the divine impulses, but it is a standard toward which to shoot.

Jude in Wash.


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 22:08:15

Comment

To WWM and others: I am myself a mother, and was before I became a pastor, but even though my children are the greatest blessing of my life and the greatest challenge, I do not "celebrate" Mother's Day in my sermons, (or Father's Day.) I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Anyway, I make it a point that day's prayer not only to thank God for and pray for mothers -- and *all* who provide motherly care -- but also to pray for those for whom the day is painful or difficult, including those you mentioned. Even though I myself don't share this pain --I think it is extremely important that the Church not add to the pain by over-sentimentalizing or idealizing the day! The Sunday School children will make and give out little tokens to *all* women in worship, as is their tradition from way back, and I will comment on how we are thankful for the Christian nurture so many adults give to our children... Other ideas, anyone? Thanks, WWM, for your sensitivity and insight! Your sister in Christ, MAL in NY


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 22:29:34

Comment

Just as an reference, Philip Keller's book, a Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm is a wonderful

book for background on exactly what it is a person does who tend a flock a woolly sheep.

micki


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 23:33:24

Comment

Manzel, if you are wanting to know more about the mini-series I would suggest reading the interview with the creator of the series at Hollywood Jesus (http://hollywoodjesus.com/).

PaxChristi


Date: 08 May 2000
Time: 23:43:38

Comment

As someone who is called "pastor" (which is the latin version of shepherd)and aware that I am not the Good Shepherd, does that make me one of the hired hands? If I am indeed one of the sheep then who are the hired hands? Idols? People, or things we turn to in place of the Good Shepherd?

I also like the strong evangelism note evident in Jesus' explanation about his going to gather other sheep. Perhaps we need to be a bit more tolerant and more diligent about finding these "other" (not necessarily lost)sheep.

How do I tie this in with Mother's Day? I need to think about that a bit more

Jonesy


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 00:35:05

Comment

I had an interesting conversation with a parishioner a few weeks ago. She told me that she had been thinking about whether God was male or female, and decided that God couldn't be a woman because no mother could send her Son to die on the cross. I asked her what this said about her understanding of fathers... Anyway, this seems to tie in with the mother's day discussion here. Not sure about shepherds laying down their lives, whether my parishioner would see this as a masculine or feminine trait...

Heather


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 03:25:54

Comment

5,8,2000


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 03:37:21

Comment

5, 8, 2000 What a klutz, here I think I have something to contribute, but can't even hit the right key on this keyboard. Anyway, I was appalled that someone picked on the sheep dog imagery "nipping at the heels of the sheep" as unloving. True love is discipline and not always fun. I believe that this concept of love of always being pleasant, sweet, kind, etc. comes straight from the pits of hell. God certainly does not give me that impression when I read the word. " My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:11-12 I believe that a good mother also loves her children enough to discipline them and reprove them.

Dale in Ks


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 05:17:54

Comment

Several notes on several subjects-

For more info on the new mini-series about Jesus, this weeks T V Guide has a cover story on it . Nothing deep, mostly on the actors and such, but of some interest.

In the U.M.C. 'tis the season for moving preachers, a subject which often leads to emotional stressing both for clergy and laity. Where there is to be change, this would be a good scripture to use to talk about who the shepherd really is. We are hired hands who come and go .Jesus is the True Shepherd who provides stability and continuity and always knows His own, even if the new hired hand takes time to learn the names and faces (and don't all sheep look alike 'til you get to know them, usually by the tone of their bleating,<no harm meant>)

On sappy Mother's Day sentiments- Remember you preach to a mixed bag of folks. Not all have had Hallmark Card families. The last M.D. that I spent in the pew, just weeks before I would be standing in the pulpit, this hit home in a big way. Just down the pew from me sat a friend and fellow Sunday School classmate. As the preacher intoned his message of the blessing of motherhood, she sat quietly crying, silent tears trailing down her cheeks. I asked privately afterwards and she told me that she and her husband could not have children and he was opposed to even talking about adoption. Please tread carefully, for the sake of tender little lambs.

Peace to you lead sheep and scape goats, tom in TN(USA)


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 12:51:56

Comment

Thanks CLW in Co for understanding what I was musing about.

For folks using this text,a simple mention of the Jewish understanding of being a Jew is passed from the maternal line may do. The challenges of the "church" of John's time are reflected in the text - "the other sheep" are most probably not of Jewish birth.

Jesus died for all, not just a select few. The Good Shepherd is our model of God and God's love.

Elizabeth


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 13:23:31

Comment

Thanks all for the discussion. A few thoughts...I am confident that Jesus' words about the "other sheep" is a promise of universal salvation...and I leave the unraveling of subsequent historical church doctrines to those so inclined. Suffice to say, universal salvation from an experiential knowledge is worth preaching anytime. On Mother's Day I remind myself that it is not a church or religious holiday, and I acknowledge the day in our announcements and the pastoral prayer, but I will not preach on 'Motherhood" because of the mixed bag that it truly is for so many people - as has been so well pointed out in this discussion. Also, the conduct, values, behavior, and social customs of mothers adn fathers in teh sweep of scripture is souch a mixed bag that i have a hard time just pointing out nice examples for use in preaching - a little like proof-texting, possibly leading to using scripture for our own ends, isn't it? I could perhaps approach the image that just as all shepherds point to our understanding of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, so all good parents point to, and give us images of GOD as ultimate, loving parent (thanks to Alex in Clyde for your Bultmann comment). It is good to look at the context of shepherding from Jesus' times and before. Recall David was not even important enough for his father Benjamin to introduce to the judge Samuel as a possible candidate for anointing as king (1Sam 16)...he was the least and last brother, out tending the sheep. In Jesus' time, shepherds were servants; the master owned the sheep, and some shepherds may have been brav,loyal, adn willing to lay down their lives (literally lying across teh sheep pen entrance to be the gate at night, adn searching far and wide for lost little ones. But surely many were just so-so, getting by, doing their job with littel passion or love for the sheep or the master. Lots to ponder for preaching. Jim in CT.


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 15:30:00

Comment

I am sure that we must be aware that Mother's Day, like Christmas and most other holidays, is a painful day. Sometimes because of a recent loss, sometimes because the relationship with family members has been painful. But it is good to acknowledge the occasion for precisely those reasons. Our attention to the joys and pains of our human relationships allows there to be healing when necessary, and it helps us to enter into that relationship with God which perfects all our human relationships. I think it is disingenuos (in the U.S. anyway) to ignore these days as if they don't exist. Better to use the occasion to transfor the occasion in some way.

I was teaching an elderhostel class last week, and several members mentioned that Sundays in general were the hardest day of the week for them. The culture recognizes Sunday as a "family day," and for those living alone, whose families are gone or dead, the long Sunday afternoon accentuates their own losses or their "difference" from the community around them. We talked about the need for institutions like churches to create alternative ways to help folks experience Sundays--perhaps by having dinners, or social times, or afternoon walks, etc. for those who are alone. Perhaps the same is true for Mother's Day; we need to create alternative "sacraments" or liturgies to honor the sacrifices of good parents and to heal the pain left from flawed ones.

-- Tim in Deep River


Date: 09 May 2000
Time: 18:11:06

Comment

Greetings!

Elizabeth: I'm a great fan of the "sheepdog" description of pastoral ministry. I first heard it several years ago from Charles Taylor who taught pastoral theology at my seminary (Church Divinity School, Berkeley, CA). I don't see the "nipping at heels" image as unloving in the least. Just as I have to steer my kids (who are teenagers!!!) along right paths, so the sheepdog steers the sheep along the path set by the Shepherd. This is a ministry of loving concern as I see it.

As to tying this Sunday's lessons in with Mother's Day, this is giving me some emotional difficulty... my mother passed away three days before this past Christmas and as I have tried to make notes and comments about mothers and Mother's Day, my still-processing grief keeps choking me up and putting an end to the homiletic drafting task. All of your comments are very helpful in working through this.

One observation I can offer as a parent, which I think is as true of mothers as it is of fathers (which I am). I have two kids... if someone were to ask me which was more important to me, I would be unable to answer the question. Neither is more nor less important, more nor less loved, more nor less cared for than the other. I believe that is also true of the Good Shepherd's love, care and concern for his sheep. Each one is precious and none more nor less so than any other. A good friend, who is an Anglican priest in Australia, once preached at my church and in talking with our Sunday School children, she asked: "Do you know how God counts people?" The answer: "One ... one ... one ... one ... one ... one......" Every one of his sheep is "number 1" to God; that's the same way a parent (mother, father) feels about his/her kids.

Looking forward to more good stuff from other desperate preachers.

Eric in Stilwell, KS


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 01:02:59

Comment

Thanks for all the input. One thought keeps churning in my mind. The shepherds were the only ones who were visited on Christmas by angels. In reading about it I was reminded that the shepherds of the ancient near east were just above the outcasts because they had to remain ritually unclean. And were shunned, pushed to the edge of the social order, so that "real people" did not have to associate with them. Now Jesus comes along in one of the great "I am's" and claims to be the Good Shepherd!! Amazing, that the incarnation still means that Jesus became the least. And here in this passage he is equating, as per Moses and the bush where the tetragrammaton was first announced-YHWH, to be an ancient near eastern shepherd and God!! I am who I am. Somewhere there lurks a sermon. Thank you all.

T in NC


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 10:31:06

Comment

I'm still letting the text brew--all these postings have been very helpful! Here's my take so far: this metaphorical use of the Good Shepherd hasn't got the same nuances as the Good Shepherd who leaves behind the 99 and goes searching for the one lost sheep. The Good Shepherd of this passage is concerned to protect the WHOLE flock from attack and scattering. And if this is so, who or what are the wolves? What intra- and extra-congregational forces are attacking our coherence, our integrity as a gathered people? This opens a good chance to deal with some specific, local issues. Second, this is a heroic image of the Good Shepherd--Christus Victor--grappling hand to paw with the wolf. I think that it's good sometimes to break open the "tender shepherd" image of some church iconography, with bolder, more energetic images of CHrist--this is a good opportunity (could link with heroic female or maternal images like Harriet Tubman). Third, one commentary noted that this passage is not about us as pastors, but solely about Jesus' pastoral care. From this passage's point of view, we "pastors" are just some of the sheep!---------Susan in Mass.


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 10:31:16

Comment

I'm still letting the text brew--all these postings have been very helpful! Here's my take so far: this metaphorical use of the Good Shepherd hasn't got the same nuances as the Good Shepherd who leaves behind the 99 and goes searching for the one lost sheep. The Good Shepherd of this passage is concerned to protect the WHOLE flock from attack and scattering. And if this is so, who or what are the wolves? What intra- and extra-congregational forces are attacking our coherence, our integrity as a gathered people? This opens a good chance to deal with some specific, local issues. Second, this is a heroic image of the Good Shepherd--Christus Victor--grappling hand to paw with the wolf. I think that it's good sometimes to break open the "tender shepherd" image of some church iconography, with bolder, more energetic images of CHrist--this is a good opportunity (could link with heroic female or maternal images like Harriet Tubman). Third, one commentary noted that this passage is not about us as pastors, but solely about Jesus' pastoral care. From this passage's point of view, we "pastors" are just some of the sheep!---------Susan in Mass.


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 14:07:39

Comment

I am struck by the difference between the hireling and the good shepherd. It seems that the reason the good shepherd is willing to give his life is because of the profound investment the owner has in those sheep. It represents his (were women shepherds?) future and security for the family. What is God's investment in humanity? What is the pearl of such price within us that God would dive into the murky waters of a shark filled creation to pluck humanity from the mire? This, I think, gives a legitimate tie to mothers day in the context of the passage, present in a healthy mother child bond. The profound connection to the child that was carried within the woman's own body ... could there be such a profound connection between God and humanity? I think the image ofGod we are created to bear might be such a connector. Lewis


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 17:00:40

Comment

Greetings and thanks for the many contributions. I have been lurking for many months, and this is my first posting. Last winter when I was teaching a new member class in my parish in the open prairies of Western South Dakota (the movie Dances with Wolves was filmed just a few miles from here) I made the comment about sheep being stupid. I've heard many sermons and analogies where it was assumed that sheep are not the brightest of animals. However, there was one rancher present who told me that I was absolutely wrong. Sheep may be stubborn, but they are definitely not stupid. I've had to rethink my analogies. Tom in SD


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 19:19:23

Comment

Dear MAL in NY:

Thanks for your comments re: finding a balance in addressing the Mothers' Day theme this coming Sunday. We do facilitate worship for a wide variety of people and family contexts. I have always tried to bring that balance into focus when Mothers' Day comes around. Usually, I have a "Special Tribute To Mothers" near the beginning of the service. While we lift up and offer thanks for the blessings that many have experienced via their mothers, we also acknowledge the pain that others have due to a death, or a dysfunctional family situation. Having this pecial acknowledgement near the beginning of worship frees us up during the sermon time on the scripture passages without having to find an "artificial" link. I often try, however, to look for and use appropriate sermon illustrations with "mother stories" when and where possible (sometimes it is; sometimes it isn't).

Some people suggest that the Church shouldn't take any time to acknowledge and of these arbitrarily-designated special occasions. I disagree, and the point was brought home to me vividly a couple of weeks ago. It has been our congregation's tradition to sing "Happy Birthday" to anyone we know of who will be celebrating his/her birthday in the coming week. If there is more than one person, we string all the names together at the appropriate time in the song. Someone approached our Worship & Sacraments Committee with the complaint that it was inappropriate to sing "Happy Birthday" (even if it's just during the ammouncement time) at a service of worship, and that we should post an "Up-Coming Birthdyas" list at the door to the sanctuary. The response from a single, middle-aged man on the committee was immediate. He said: "I live alone. None of my family live here, so there is no one else but my church family to sing to me." The discussion was ended. "Happy Birthday" will continue to be sung during announcement time.

To Eric in Stilwell, KS: My thoughts & prayers are with you as you journey in grief. May the Holy Spirit, who cares for us as a mother cares deeply for her children, comfort and sustain you through this painful time.

RevIan in Québec


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 20:04:44

Comment

Dear DPS Community:

http://www.javacasa.com/wts/intro_feminingod.htm

http://www.javacasa.com/wts/feminingod.htm

Here are the direct links to the "Feminine Face of God" Web Theology I mentioned earlier.

Happy Surfing.

Rev WWM. Your concern is well stated. I recall several years ago on Mother's Day when a well meaning elderly woman in the church wistfully wished my wife a happy mother's day. She then followed that with an embarassed, "Oops, I'm sorry. I forgot that you don't have any children." The fact that we had been trying for quite some time to have children made that innocent remark razor sharp. She was devistated!

I think the answer to your question is best noted in sticking with the lectionary and letting the lectionary guide your sermon, not the secular calendar. Mother's day is not a "holy day." It is a media-generated, marketing blitz develped to guilt folks into 'appreciating' mom for one day out of the year. So many churches have made it such a central focus of worship that it is hard to tell if we are worshipping Jesus or Mothers.

Should it be mentioned? Well, probably it should. Afterall, if your church is like mine, it is impossible to ignore. The important thing is to keep Christ the center of focus, not motherhood.

Likewise, we need to remember and be very pasotrally sensitive to the emotional needs of folks. (As you so clearly pointed out!) Not having children is not a bad thing! A woman's value is not dependent on her being a mother. We need to make this fact known!

Peace,

DWR


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 21:17:22

Comment

In an age when we have popularized the "Victim-Mentality" Jesus says "No" to the idea that he was a victim. Do not get me wrong. I believe there are victims... way too many for that matter. However, even those who have been vicitimized must move beyond that stance if they are to ever be free. Jesus said "No one takes my life I give it." This is refreshing! His life a gift to us. Preaching this text on Mother's day opens up the side of Jesus that takes us all in as a mother.

Revpump in Colorado


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 21:52:23

Comment

from Ps inIa Just a note... I struggle with the Mother's Day this year. I remember how difficult it was when I desperately wanted a baby and it took years. I want to celebrate the joy of nuturing and caring. We have all had examples of loving persons, women who have cared for us when we were unable to do it for ourselves, Maybe not our biological mothers. Women who went out of their way to provide a moment of comfort for us. I had a neighbor to whose house I would go when I felt that I had been unjustly accused or disciplined. She would listen to my pain, and wipe away the tears and talk to me about the problem. She didn't comment about my parents, she let me work through the momentary situation. And I would come to the conclusion that yes indeed my mother loved me. I will celebrate mothers as we all have them. I struggle too at being a parent. I know that inspite of lots of training, I am not able to say the right things all the time or acting appropriately. I got the 'look' from my 9 year old this week at her teacher's birthday party when I sang the birthday song with cha cha cha's included. I struggle because my own mother died last August. I have several in my congregations who in the 70's are now losing their parents who are in their 90's. I remind them how fortunate they have been to have had them for so long. I struggle because I will always have a place that I'll feel that I wasn't a good enough daughter. I know that this comes from inside and not from my mother. I know that we are the ones for who Christ gave his life. All the struggles are over and God's love comes through.


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 22:20:09

Comment

Mother's Day is not a part of the liturgical calendar. I don't think it is sound hermenuetics to attempt to "tie something in" to a text that the text has nothing to do with.

Spud


Date: 10 May 2000
Time: 23:54:09

Comment

I have always hated the mother's day sermons I have heard, but last year, when I wrote my first one, "The Mother heart of God," I realized that Hallmark and corporate America had taken over the day. Originally, it was to celebrate the work of women like Mother Jarvis and Juliet Howe who did much to improve conditions for children, and did much to respond compassionately to soldiers injured in war, no matter what side of the Mason Dixon line they served. The work is what was important, not the mothers!

Should we celebrate this day in church? WEll, I think that "Honor thy father and mother so your days will be long upon the earth" gives us good enough reason to draw attention to the "work" that has been traditionally "mothers work."

What I discovered in writing this sermon last year was that there are many verses throughout scripture that allude to the feminine nature of God. I've listed those scriptures earlier. Regardless of whether or not we are good mothers, regardless of whether or not we have had good mothers, regardless of whether or not we are mothers, there are impulses given to women that are a reflection of part of God's very own nature.

I remember when I had my first child. I ended up daydreaming about a mountain lion attacking my child (strange day dream!) In response, I imagined myself attacking the mountain lion and ripping it to shreds with my bare hands to save my child. (Yes, I know, very weird indeed)

Anyway, imagine my delight when years later when I became a Christian, I ran across Hosea 13:8. Angered by those who threaten her children God says, "I will come upon them like a lion, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open."

O.K. Where did that impulse come from? God describes the very thing I had experienced in my daydream. Glimpses of the "Mother heart of God," implanted in my being, by none other than my Creator. Have I always been a good mother? No, but that is because I am an imperfect creature. Has God given me good impulses to protect my young? I think so. And every once in awhile, He allows me to catch a glimpse into the Perfect Mother-Heart of God, so that I can grow in my role.

Yes, I know this has little to do with the Good Shepherd passage, which by the way, seems like a pretty feminine role also (nurturing, caring for the sheep, looking out so that mountain lions don't attack...."

Still pondering in Wash. Jude


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 02:52:34

Comment

Greetings to all:

Prior to the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom and cosmopolitan Jerusalem as the center of everything, shepherds had a much better reputation. By Jesus day, it was considered a demeaning occupation . . . not one most people would want to have their reputation tied to in such a direct way.

I think to ask why Jesus chose this metaphor instead of say, "good king," or "good scribe," says something very profound about Jesus. At the very least it goes right along with his constant lack of concern for his reputation: "eats with sinners," "has prostitutes in his following," "eats with tax collectors," and perhaps most profoundly, "he does not defend himself before pilate."

I happen to be one of those who had almost the "perfect" mother. I remember all those times she held me in her lap through the night when I was sick. I remember all those times she helped me with my homework . . . and sometimes even DID my homework :-) All those times she gave up what she wanted to do, so I could be where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do. None of you reading this note would have ever known, if I hadn't told you. The rest of my family doesn't even know the half of it. A love where reputation doesn't matter . . . that's the love of the Good Shepherd. I have to admit, most of the time when I say "Father," in reference to God, I'm thinking "mother." Just a confession, not an attempt to start a thread of argument on Inclusive language (Though I am an advocate of it's use).

Reputation has always mattered to me . . . Be sure I have REV. before my name. . . be sure I get the respect my office as pastor deserves. . . as I grow older and wiser and the love of the Good Shepherd infects my heart, I'm happy to say those things are beginning to mean less to me.

So . . . I think it is important to discuss the status of shepherds in Jesus day, and the fact that they were somewhat non-respected. Jesus deliberately chose this metaphor, just as he chose "Samaritan" in the parable of the "good" one. These choices are not accidental.

Peace,

WJA in CA.


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 11:08:44

Comment

For those of you struggling with preaching on mothers VS. the Good Shepherd and the Gospel, here is a solution I am using. This is my insert in the bulletin, which should hopefully answer the happiness and pain of any mothers present, without upsetting "those who could not mother or had bad ones" without dwelling on mothers too much in the sermon itself. :

A TRIBUTE TO MOTHERS

This is for all the mothers who DIDN'T win Mother of the Year in 1999, all the runners-up and all the wannabes, all those too tired to enter or too busy to care. This is for all the mothers who freeze their you know what on metal bleachers instead of watching from cars, so that when their kids ask, "Did you see my goal?" they can say, "Of course, I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

This is for every mother who ever sat up all night with a sick toddler in her arms, wiping the child at both ends, while saying, "It's okay honey, Mommy is here." This is for all the mothers of the victims of our nation's school shootings, and the mothers of the murderers. For the mothers of the survivors, and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror, hugging their child who just came home from school, safely. It's for all the mothers who run carpools and bake cookies and sew Halloween costumes. AND, it's for all the mothers who DON'T.

What makes a good mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse, cook dinner and sew on a button all at the same time? Or is it heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your child disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the first time? Is it the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a school shooting, a fire, a car accident, a baby dying? I think so.

So this is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn't. This is for reading "Goodnight, Moon" twice a night for a year. And then reading it again. "Just one more time." This is for all the mothers who mess up. Those who yell at their kids in the grocery store and swat them in despair and stomp their feet like tired three-year-olds who want ice cream before dinner. This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead.

It's for all the mothers who bite their lips until they bleed -- when their 14 year-olds dye their hair green, pierce body parts and ask for contraceptives. This is for all the mothers who lock themselves in the bathroom when babies keep crying and won't stop. This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purses. This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jumpshot. This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are not with them.

This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears on their children's graves. This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, and who can't find the words to reach them. This is for mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mothers learning to let go. For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. Single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.

This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes. This is for all the mothers of Kosovo who fled in the night and can't find their children. This is for you all. So hang in there. The world would be a terrible place without you.

(Source Unknown - does anyone have the source?) revup


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 13:26:20

Comment

Thanks for sharing this beautiful thought! A quick search of the internet turned up this information: A Tribute to mothers written by Cindy Lange Kubick(clangekubick@journalstar.com) Columnist, Lincoln Journal Star Lincoln, Nebraska USA

I also found quite a few sites that claimed that the author was unknown. So let's give Cindy Lange Kubick her rightful acknowledgement!


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 14:44:54

Comment

Hi: just a note from a Canadian. In the Adult Bible Study curriculum we are using: "The Whole People of God" They note that the orgins of Mother's Day begin in 1872. Julia Ward Howe, composer of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and a leading figure in the women's suffrage movement proposed, as one of her arguments for giving women the vote that women's mothering role, their "mother-heartedness: meant they would be more likely to promote peace in the world. A Mother's day for peace was established in that year as a result. It seems to me that this challenge to all those who carry the mother-hearted role in our communities is a much better path to take than the Hallmark stuff we put up with. Setting this purpose in the context of the Good Shepherd in John's gospel might include looking at the concept of Peace-making as a means for all of us to "lay down our lives for the sheep." Shalom, to all of you. Mark


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 15:34:35

Comment

Hello from Canada This is the first time for me - browsing this discussion forum, that is. Thanks for all the insight on next Sunday's service. As a Presbyterian, we do not refer to it as Mother's Day but rather as Christian Family Sunday. I do not intend to focus on Mothers but on the text. Thank you and perhaps I'll join in again . Bonnie from New Brunswick


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 18:55:37

Comment

On May 8th was the feast day of Julian of Norwich who spoke of our Lord as "Mother Jesus."


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 19:10:16

Comment

greetings... what a great site i have stumbled upon. Your comments on this passage have been enlightening. Not sure where i stand on the "sheep dog" idea. It has some merit.

really enjoyed the comment "will we recognize?" I had planned to go through the various "characters" in this passage; owner, shepherd, wolf, hired hand, and the sheep. Will end with,"WOuld you recognize the voice of your shepherd?"

i'll be back to this site... without a doubt

associate in NC


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 19:11:15

Comment

greetings... what a great site i have stumbled upon. Your comments on this passage have been enlightening. Not sure where i stand on the "sheep dog" idea. It has some merit.

really enjoyed the comment "will we recognize?" I had planned to go through the various "characters" in this passage; owner, shepherd, wolf, hired hand, and the sheep. Will end with,"WOuld you recognize the voice of your shepherd?"

i'll be back to this site... without a doubt

associate in NC


Date: 11 May 2000
Time: 20:27:29

Comment

As always I enjoy all the contributions. My sermon is God is Like... I had a list of funny sayings that said God is like... but I can't find it. They were all from commercial products like Coke, Tide and a bunch more. If anyone has a copy of this would you please let me know. You can email at terihil@yahoo.com Thanks TeriNTexas


Date: 12 May 2000
Time: 20:00:07

Comment

In trying to get another handle on this passage I wrote the following:Paraphrase John 10:11-18

11I am the good mother. A good mother gives her life for her children. 12A maid, who isn't the mother and isn't related to the children, would see the predator coming and run off, abandoning the children; then the predator can attack the children and harm them. 13The maid will run off because she is a maid and the children don't matter to her. 14I am the good mother; I know my children and my children know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father: so I give my life for my children. 16Yet I have children from other houses, and I must care for them too. They'll recognize my voice, and there'll be one home, and one mother. 17This is thereason my Father loves me: I am giving up my life so I can take it back again. 18No one can take it away from me; I give it up freely. It's my right to give it up, my right to take it back again. I have been charged with this responsibility by my Father. May be it will stimulate some thoughts. DHS


Date: 13 May 2000
Time: 15:54:07

Comment

Dear Alex in Clyde, First, to all on this website; thank you for all the great insights. I am an often times reader.

I understand where Clyde is coming frome. My preaching teacher said to me "take one or two salient points and dive into them. Save the rest for another sermon." I often get an idea or two and then turn to this and other web sites to help cement them. Shalom Nancy in Union


Date: 13 May 2000
Time: 19:10:50

Comment

If you want to reflect on the GOOD shepherd image of Jesus - as he calls himself, compared to the hired hands or "bad" shepherds, read Ezekiel 34. It is a title of the messiah, the one who would be chosen and sent by GOD to lead, guide, adn lay down his life for the people who would know him, and so that all would have a chance to know him. Jim in CT.


Date: 13 May 2000
Time: 22:19:06

Comment

For Revlan For Happy Birthday, we also do a weekly chorus but we use slightly different words:Happy Birthday to you; to Jesus be true; may God's richest blessings; be always on you. Dean in BC


Date: 13 May 2000
Time: 23:36:08

Comment

The "point" of sheep dog is that we are not Jesus! Jesus clearly states that there is only one Shepherd (Jn 10:16). I have a very loyal dog, but she is never confused into thinking she is me. J in TX


Date: 13 May 2000
Time: 23:38:10

Comment

For those useing the sheepdog image (and I know this is a liuttle late, but it just came to me):

I have friends who own a Great Pyrennees, a different kind of sheepdog. They were bred to guard sheep in the Pyrennees mountains, were of the same family as the St. Bernard, and have long white hair. They also were bred to move very slowly most of the time, so they did not startle the sheep. They would stay in the center of the flock, not bothering any of the sheep, until there was trouble (like a bear), then they would charge out and fight.

How many of us want a Christ like that? Invisible, not bothering us, but able to deal with trouble when it comes. I'm going to compare that with a sheep dog who drives us from behind, and the Hebrew shepherd, who led from the front. "Going to" means another Saturday night at the coffee shop frantically writing.

Bruce in PA


Date: 14 May 2000
Time: 10:47:24

Comment

In our hands as the community of faith we hold the Paschal Mystery (Eucharist)... though we are not "The Good Shepherd" ... The Good Shepherd has brought is into green pastures ... not to nurture ourselves only, but to give ourselves to others, we must learn to become gentle and welcoming hosts to those beyond and different from ourselves, bringing life and hope to those who live in darkness.

tom in ga (Good preaching everyone!!!!)


Date: 14 May 2000
Time: 10:47:49

Comment

In our hands as the community of faith we hold the Paschal Mystery (Eucharist)... though we are not "The Good Shepherd" ... The Good Shepherd has brought is into green pastures ... not to nurture ourselves only, but to give ourselves to others, we must learn to become gentle and welcoming hosts to those beyond and different from ourselves, bringing life and hope to those who live in darkness.

tom in ga (Good preaching everyone!!!!)