23rd Psalm – KJV, adapted for inclusive language
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 God maketh me to lie down in green pastures: God leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 God restoreth my soul: God leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for Their name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
John 10:22-30 – New Revised Standard Version, adapted for inclusive language
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense?
If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe.
The works that I do in God’s name testify to me;
26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 What God has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of God’s hand.
30 God and I are one.”
This morning the most obvious common thread between our two scriptures is that of a shepherd. A good shepherd.
Our Hebrew scripture, the well-known 23rd Psalm stirs imagery of a God that cares for us. One that cares for Their flock by finding food and water and shelter to keep those in Their care healthy and safe. One that walks by our side all the days of our lives, whether it be in celebration or sorrow.
On this fourth Sunday of Easter, the Gospel of John is still addressing the issue of doubt. “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus responds, I have done better than to tell you. I have shown you. Those that believe what they have seen, and heard, and felt, belong to the flock. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd.
Decades ago, I heard a Mother’s Day sermon on the 23rd Psalm. My friend John, then a Moravian seminary student, suggested that for many, their mother’s love is so strong and constant and near perfect, that it is easy to envision the word Mom in this psalm.
My Mom is my shepherd, I shall not want. Mom maketh me to lie down in green pastures; Mom leadeth me beside the still waters. Mom restoreth my soul. Mom leads me in the paths of righteousness.
A beautiful sentiment for some, but not all. For some it is comforting. For some it is hurtful.
Mother’s Day. How did we come to celebrate it on the second Sunday of May? “In the United States, the origins of the official holiday go back to 1870, when Julia Ward Howe – an abolitionist best remembered as the poet who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic” – worked to establish a Mother’s Peace Day. Howe dedicated the celebration to the eradication of war, and organized festivities in Boston for years.
In 1907, Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, began the campaign to have Mother’s Day officially recognized, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson did this, proclaiming it a national holiday and a “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”
Today’s commercialized celebration of candy, flowers, gift certificates, and lavish meals at restaurants bears little resemblance to Howe’s original idea. There is nothing wrong with that. But here, for the record’s sake, is the proclamation she wrote in 1870, which explains, in her own impassioned words, the goals of the original holiday.” (Plough, Daily Dig, May 6, 2022)
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
On this Mother’s Day, let us acknowledge not only the joys of motherhood, but the pain and loss and anguish that is part of parenting. Let’s acknowledge that when we say Happy Mother’s Day for some it is truly happy, and for others it is sad or complicated or met with ambivalence.
Not all mothers have the same experience as mothers, so let us please be gentle and kind to one another today, and every day.
We do not all have the same experience with our mothers, so let us please be gentle and kind to one another today, and every day.
Let us keep the origins of the day in our hearts and minds. Not only the proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson to make a, “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.” Let us keep especially the intent of Julia Ward Howe to eradicate war.
May we each foster peace within our own hearts, peace within our own families, peace within our communities, peace in ever-widening concentric circles that ripple further and further into the world.
Let us be good shepherds to one another in any and every way that we know how.
Let us lead one another to pastures of plenty and to cool, clear, clean water.
Let us protect one another from harm. Let us provide shelter and care for each and all.
Let us bring those wandering and lost back with us into the safety of the sheepfold.
Let us be Good Shepherds.
Rev. TJ Mack – May 8, 2022