This Sunday of words and songs about sheep and shepherds has always challenged me. For most of my preaching life I’ve been in or near a city. Now I live in New York City, where as far as I know even the Sheep Meadow in Central Park has no sheep.
Yet here is an enduring image from Jesus, an image captured perhaps millions of times in our art, our songs, our stories.
I’ve always been challenged by the lectionary readings for this Sunday. Although both Psalm 23 and John refer to Jesus the Shepherd and us as sheep, I live in New York City, and as far as I can tell, even the Sheep Meadow in Central Park has no sheep. Yet we sing Psalm 23 each year on this Sunday and at countless other times in convalescent homes and at gravesides.
I love Don Juel’s description of Jesus as a “master of surprise.” The ways Jesus reveals himself to his followers in the post-resurrection stories testify to his delight in surprising those who love him, and whom he loves.
Jesus’ moments of self-revelation are not only world-shaking but intimate, relational, invitational and even clever.
Although Jesus is called teacher in the Gospel of Mark, that Gospel includes little of the teachings of Jesus. His parables confound his listeners rather than leading to greater understanding. Jesus’ teaching in Mark is performative, says Brian Blount; Jesus taught by the way he lived. He doesn’t teach love as a concept, he acts it out by touching lepers and allowing diseased people to touch him, engaging women as equals, associating with the marginalized, and breaking laws that don’t promote human well-being. If we want to teach the reign of God as Jesus taught it, then we need to craft a curriculum that does more than inform (Interpretation, April).