You may have thought that last Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday,….but actually today is what is more commonly referred to as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’.
We first read the 23rd Psalm, which states that “the Lord is my shepherd”.
He leadeth me to lie down in green pastures, and besides still water; he restoreth my soul, and he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
The Old Testament has various images of God being the shepherd to his people.
But none are more vividly portrayed or memorable than the 23rd Psalm.
But we also heard John’s Gospel where Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd.
And so, to begin with, here once more Jesus is equating himself with God.
Yet while in the Old Testament the shepherd watches over the entire flock,…
Jesus says the shepherd does more than just protect the whole flock in his care. Jesus says the attention and care he gives is more personal and intimate.
That the Good Shepherd “calls out his own sheep by name and leads them out”.
He “calls them out by name…”is maybe one of the more profound concepts and faith builders of any bible verse.
Because what it tells us is that the God we know in Jesus Christ,…..knows us!
Knows us, not just as another human being on this planet,…
not just as a part of the flock of faith people who follow this Good Shepherd,…
but individually as a unique person differentiated from everyone else!
Jesus created personal relationships with people and so, called them by name.
When he called his disciples to follow him, he no doubt called them by name.
When he called his friend back from the dead, he yelled ‘Lazarus, come out!”
And when he appeared in resurrection he simply said to the frightened woman who say him first;… “Mary”…and her fears subsided.
When you are close, or want to be close to someone, it’s what you do.
You call them by name and that use of their name means that they are special.
To know and remember a name is not something that is always easy to do.
Recently I was somewhere and another guy, named Tim, was also there.
This person introduced me to someone as “Tim” to which I said, “my name actually is ‘Pete’, to which she said “oh yeah, sorry.”
We had no relationship as of yet because she had just met me, but you get the point.
Pastors often have to remember hundreds of names, including the Christmas and Easter only people and hopefully their children too.
A boss ingratiates him or herself to the staff when they know people’s names.
A teacher connects better with their students when they are called by name.
There is a certain magic that happens as someone speaks your name.
There’s an intimate and caring connection when someone speaks your name.
There’s a calming mood and message conveyed as someone speaks your name.
It shows you want to know them in a way that is more personal than professional.
It shows that you are concerned enough to remember and use their name.
It shows that your relationship with them has moved beyond ‘just one of many’.
Jesus knows each of our names because he cares about each one of us.
So he wants his sheep to know that each and every one of them matter to him.
From the oldest to the youngest,….from the stray to the homebody,…from the pure as snow good one to the black sheep that causes trouble sometimes,…from the leader of the flock to the loser of the flock,…he loves ‘em all by name.
The same is true with us.
He wants us to know that each of us matter, no matter what or who we are.
And so, when we go to him,….go to God,…in prayer or struggles,….he is there.
Knowing each of our wants and weaknesses; each of our needs and our names.
Don’t ever think that God can’t be bothered with the needs or sins of little old me. Don’t ever dismiss God’s concern because there are so many other sheep.
Don’t ever assume God’s attention is limited because he’s got other things to do.
In Jesus, we know that God attends to each of us at all junctures of our lives.
When we struggle with faith, when we are full of sorrow,..when we need calming.
Like when he called his first disciples, Jesus calls us by name at the start of our relationship with him in our Baptism where he summons us to be his disciples.
Just as he lovingly spoke Mary’s name when she was frightened and unsure, he calls us by name in faith when we are scared and need reassurance.
And, like Lazarus, he will call us by name out of death, to come to him.
Come to him and follow him to where the rest of his flock will be called as well.