A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
Last week, we learned about God, our potter, who makes us imperfect so that we might perfectly serve the ones whom God love. Today, we get to hear about God as our shepherd.
It’s an image we’re very familiar with. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He is from the line of David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. Isaiah, as we hear today, sees God as the shepherd who will watch over the sheep, making sure there’s plenty to eat, and leading the herd to green pastures.
But the idea of a shepherd watching over us isn’t always the good news we want. Think about what kids are like—always looking for some freedom and independence. Frankly, no one likes to have someone watching over your shoulder every step of the way. We like to venture out on our own—prove to the world we have what it takes to be successful on our own. In fact, that’s one of the myths of the American Dream—that truly successful people know how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, defy the odds, work hard, and achieve the unachievable.
Except that’s never really how it works, is it. No matter what great things we achieve—or fail to achieve, we are never really quite on our own. And that’s the good news.
A mother was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn’t want her to walk with him, and she wanted to give him a feeling of independence. However, she also wanted to know that he was safe.
When she expressed her concern to her neighbor, Shirley offered to follow him to school every morning for a while, staying at a distance so he wouldn’t notice. Shirley said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it will be a good way for them to get some exercise.
All week long, Shirley and her daughter followed Timmy as he walked to school with another neighborhood girl. As the two children walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy’s friend asked, “Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week? Do you know her?” “Yes, I know who she is. That’s my mom’s friend Shirley Goodnest and her little girl Marcy.”
“Shirley Goodnest? Why is she following us?” “Well,” Timmy explained, “every night my mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm. It says, ‘Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all days of my life.’ So, I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.”
The truth is, we’re never alone. Not only is God always with us, caring for us and walking with us, God also sends us one another to help along the way. Most importantly, God sends us God’s own self. Just as a shepherd puts his life at risk to defend the sheep from wild animals, God put God’s life at risk to defend us from the clutches of evil. And God won—God won because God’s life simply cannot be taken. God wins every moment of every day. And when we think we’re doing all the work and making all the progress, or when we feel we failed and can’t go on, God reminds us through Scripture and worship and community that we are part of God’s flock—named, claimed, cared for, and continually brought to life by the work of God alone.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church