April 30, 2023

SERMON:  ‘We’re All in This Flock Together!’  Rev. Jane Courtright


“Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life.”


How wonderful to come to church on a spring Sunday,

and run into an old friend!

Some Sunday mornings are different.


you settle comfortably down into your usual pew,

only to be confronted by some idea

that seems strange

or challenging, or a passage from the Bible

that you can’t recall ever hearing before!



This is the 4th Sunday of Easter –

known in the church calendar as

‘Good Shepherd Sunday.’


Today, our Bible readings have to do

with shepherds & sheep.

We’re used to hearing about both

in Sunday School & Church.


Jesus as the Good Shepherd

has been a popular concept

for quite a long time!

Even 100’s of years ago,

many churches had a stained-glass window

depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd,

holding in his arms

a rescued sheep & leading a flock.





In some ways,

the popularity of shepherds & sheep

makes preaching on the subject difficult.

Are our understandings of their symbolism


Is the metaphor of the Good Shepherd

still relevant?


Shepherds & sheep were very fitting in Jesus’ day.

He lived in a society very close to

& dependent on animals…

especially sheep.

Most people knew the character

and work of a shepherd.

Sheep were as commonplace

as cats & dogs to us today.


On the other hand, how many of us

have ever met a shepherd?

How many of us have spent time around sheep…

Or even seen any…

except in a movie, a petting zoo,

Or at a distance in a field beside a highway?


The relationship between a shepherd & sheep

is so unique (I, at least can’t think of another

relationship that would be near the same,)

Let’s explore these ever-present Biblical figures.


On the rough & rocky land of Israel,

The shepherd literally lived with his sheep,

& therefore, he led them, provided for them,

even died for them when necessary.

He probably knew each sheep by name.

You can be SURE that the sheep

knew the sound of his voice!


This good shepherd thought of

the well-being of his sheep

before his own well-being.

He would risk his life to protect his sheep.


In Hebrew, the word shepherd

& the word friend or companion

come from the same root.

Knowing all this, it’s not so hard, is it,

to understand why the figure of a shepherd

is popular in speaking about God?


The good shepherd

that Jesus is declaring himself to be

is one who sees the sheep

as part of his own body;

A shepherd who would lay down his own life

for the well-being of the sheep

in his flock or fold.


Jesus, as the good shepherd

is our model for life

within our own immediate flock or fold

–                      our church!

We are called to put others before ourselves –

to know the others in our flock.

Because there are times

when each of us wonders

if ANYBODY out there really cares!


The comedian Lilly Tomlin

once shocked her audience

when she suddenly collapsed on stage.

She just quite literally fell over!


After a few moments, while still flat on her back,

She said to her audience,

“I notice no one of you go up

to see is anything was wrong.”

Then, with a rather cynical twist

of a well-known phrase,

she commented,                                                                                 “Remember, we’re all in this- ALONE!”


Several years ago,

while I was pastor in Byron, IL.,

I became aware that my younger son

Joey was missing

from his special school in Bartlett, IL..


When he was still not located

for a couple of hours,

I became increasingly worried.

I informed the Church Council

(which was meeting right then)

that I would have to go to Bartlett

& help look for Joey.

A couple of them wanted to come along & help.

We agreed to meet at the church in 10 minutes.


When I changed my clothes

& returned to church,

I was amazed!

Several members of the church council & others,

along with their friends & family

were there to come along & help!


It brought to my mind the story

of the feeding of the 5,000.

The first offerings of help were multiplied!

Thank God that Joey was located before

we were able to start searching.

When I saw all those people willing to help,

I experienced what it means

to be part of the flock!


I’m sure that as a part of THIS flock,

you can remember times that said to you,

      “We’re all in this flock together!”

These times and stories are important

….they become part of our church story.

Our stories are an important way

that we can shepherd those in our own flock,

especially our young people…

Who see what WE DO,

and often not what we say,

who can tell whether our faith

is taken seriously.

This togetherness & support

of the flock is important.

This is the comfort part of the metaphor.


But remember, as so often in Jesus’ teachings,

there is also a challenge!

Jesus looks beyond the immediate flock

to invite others in.


Jesus said, “And I have other sheep,

that are not of this fold;

I must bring them here also,

and they will heed my voice.

So there will be one flock,

one shepherd.”


This inclusive flock does not require

that members be of a certain nation,

social class, ethnic background,

denomination, gender, lifestyle,

or have certain manners or clothing.


The Gospel of John

goes beyond such requirements

to include in the flock all who want to know

the good shepherd.


Belonging is based upon

a mutual search for truth,

trying to be followers of Jesus,

doing Jesus’ ministry together!


As YOU stand inside this flock together,

as you look at other sheep not of this fold,

ask yourselves

“Who is there / that longs to hear

the voice of the shepherd..

and can hear him only through

our voices, our respect, our love

our touch, our actions?


Who are you called to bring into this flock –

The Church of Peace

United Church of Christ?


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