Listening to the Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Sunday, three weeks after Easter, derives its name from the gospel readings across the Anglican and Catholic Communions assigned for that day. Taken from the 10th chapter of John, we hear again the story of Jesus described as the Good Shepherd who, by dying on the cross, laid down his life for his sheep.

In Pastor Anne’s thought- and heart-provoking sermon for the day, she reminded us of how well sheep know their own shepherd’s voice; how they will follow none other’s. In some ways sheep may be famously dumb, but they excel at being good listeners and followers.

How does that connect to us as believers in our one true heavenly shepherd? We, as human beings, too often prove ourselves poor followers and listeners to that Divine Voice. Anne provided many pointers to help us learn better to listen to, and know when we are hearing from, God. The first major point being simply that: LISTEN! How often do we spend time being quiet, waiting for that ‘still, small voice’, in our prayer times? Yet how else will we hear?

In a recent devotional by Rick Warren, he makes a similar point in describing how difficult it can be for us—this idea of yielding, of surrendering. We instead have been so often taught to conquer, speak our minds, to overcome, expect our will to be done. While Warren writes more in terms of worship, that also is prayer. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches us that rather than trying to win, succeed, overcome, and conquer, we should instead yield, submit, obey, and surrender. How else can we do this but to listen first?

“When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus,” Warren concludes, “we discover that he is not a tyrant but a savior; not a boss, but a brother; not a dictator, but a friend.”