Just wanted to share this message I came across today that really
says it all in the midst of the Carona Virus Pandemic:
I grew up in rural Iowa, so I spent time around farms and farmers.
Because of this, I was pretty well-versed in growing corn, beans,
and wheat. I knew a little about cows and pigs. But my agrarian
upbringing did not feature sheep and shepherds.
Whenever I read in the scriptures about sheep and shepherds,
my instant mental image looks like a postcard. There are fluffy,
glistening white sheep standing on perfect green grass against
the backdrop of a clear blue sky. Looking at that postcard image,
you’d think that being a shepherd is a good gig.
But being a shepherd in biblical times was far from a high-status,
desirable occupation. They were likely caring for someone else’s
sheep, so they were on the hook if a sheep were lost or killed.
Shepherds worked outdoors, even when the weather was not
good. They had to face down predatory animals to keep their
Sheep are also not known for being the most clever animals
on the farm. They need to be herded around for their own good.
And sheep are not like the fluffy stuffed animals we see sometimes.
They are dirty, and they don’t smell very good.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” It’s so familiar, we
might miss what it’s saying. The opening of Psalm 23 is so lovely,
so lyrical. And yet it is a bit shocking. Comparing God Almighty to
a shepherd is to say that our loving Creator gets right down in the
thick of it with us. God faces danger with us. God braves the storm
to be with us. And what about the sheep? To compare ourselves
with sheep is to say that we need God. We need to be herded and
guided. We need protection. We need to be watched over.
We are not all that great.
In our fear and in our confusion, God is with us.
We are never alone.
Psalm 23 is the assigned psalm for many churches this weekend,
and I could not be more grateful. It’s just what we need to hear at
this moment in our common life. Many of us are stunned, trying
to keep up with daily news about the coronavirus and the
necessary changes to our lives.
We might be terribly afraid, both for our own well-being and the
health of those we love. And here we get the reminder we need. “
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
In our fear and in our confusion, God is with us. We are never alone.
Even when we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,”
we need not fear. I do not read this as saying nothing bad will ever
happen to us. Rather, this is divine assurance that in our trials and
tribulations, God is with us. We are never alone. The earliest known
images of Jesus Christ, created 200 years or so after his death and
resurrection, depict him as a shepherd. Jesus is often seen standing
among sheep with a lamb on his shoulders.
Jesus is not shown in those ancient images wearing glittering robes,
nor is he seated on a throne. Instead, the savior of the world is
standing in humility among sheep, literally picking up and carrying
the most vulnerable of his flock.
That’s how it is with us. As we stay in our homes, perhaps gripped
by fear, we should know that Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd,
will pick us up and carry us in our moments of greatest need.
We know that God does not idly sit by and watch us suffer.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…”
Jesus Christ lived among us, knowing every pain and sting of
humanity, even death itself.
Our God is not distant and uncaring, but comes near to share our pain.
It’s not wrong to be afraid. That’s a healthy
response to the threats we face. But we can,
by God’s grace, face our fears so that our
hearts and our lives are ruled by hope and
love, not by fear.
On the third day after his death, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,
showing the triumph of God’s love. As Easter reminds us, God’s love is
stronger than hatred, stronger than imperial armies, and stronger even
Because Jesus has destroyed death, we can walk through the valley
of the shadow of death — or face the spread of the coronavirus —
knowing that, in the end, God’s love is stronger than our fears and
stronger than anything we might face.
It’s not wrong to be afraid. That’s a healthy response to the threats
we face. But we can, by God’s grace, face our fears so that our
hearts and our lives are ruled by hope and love, not by fear.
We should take care to stay at home to slow the spread of disease,
for that is how we can love our neighbors.
But in our homes, we should remember two lessons that the Good Shepherd shows us:
(1) God’s love, in the end, is stronger than whatever we face.
(2) We are never alone.
And remember, fellow e-Sword users, May God
bless us with joy and peace as we trust in Him.
Most of us however, forget trust in Him means
that we are obedient to Him and His word. Maybe
just maybe what happens sometimes the heart
of man strays too far from God....