Tag Archives: Good Shepherd

2 July: The Good Shepherd

St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

One of the classic Victorian hymns that still speaks to us today.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter 
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?
Was there ever kindest shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Saviour who would have us
Come and gather round his feet?

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we lose the tender shepherd
In the judge upon the throne.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

FW Faber

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.

John 10;27.

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9 May: Incidental Deviations.

Sister ought to be able to walk ‘quite straight’ here, but look, there is mud on the road, and the asphalt is cracking up …

John Conington wrote this paragraph to describe the challenges of translating from Latin into the English of his day (he died in 1869).

“Still, where it is almost impossible to walk quite straight, the walker will reconcile himself to incidental deviations, and will even consider, where a slip is inevitable, on which side of the line it is better that the slip should take place.”

From “The Satires, Epistles, and Art of Poetry” by Horace, Tr. John Conington.

Conington expected to miss the path, to fall short, to slip or trip, but he was prepared for that, prepared to get up and go on again, scratched, besmirched, weary; metaphorically speaking. Let us ask the Good Shepherd to guide us along the right path, and to give us the comfort of his crook and staff, as we make our incidentally devious way through Life.

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10 April: Palm Sunday, The Passion and I.

Good Friday

Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

 Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
 Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon,--
I, only I.

 Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

This post card was sent home by a man who himself never came home from the Great War. Ironically, it was produced in Munich, sent home to Manchester from Poperinghe in Belgium, and saved by the recipient and her descendants.

Christina Rossetti puts herself with Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene and other women who stood weeping, next to the Cross, owning a lack of tears on her own part. Poetic licence, I feel. Her heart in this poem is full of sorrow and self-accusation, but she is also repentant, asking God to strike her stony heart, as he commanded Moses to strike to rock in the desert:

“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Exodus 17:1-7).

If the Lord makes our hearts run with tears, whether physical or inner tears, will we give the people living water to drink?

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21 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day IV.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

And you, Bethlehem… are by no means least.

Readings

Micah 5:2-5a, 7-8 From you shall come forth … one who is to rule in Israel
1 Peter 2: 21-25 Now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls
Luke 12:32-40 Do not be afraid, little flock

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Add New TagSaint Luke (1 of 11)Saint Lukefear (2 of 11)fearjustice (3 of 11)justiceKingdom (4 of 11)Kingdom

Reflection
Today we consider why God chooses to act in and through seemingly insignificant places and people, and
what God does with them. These are not new questions – in fact they are the favourite paradoxes of preachers in the Christmas and Epiphany seasons – yet they continue to challenge us. The prophet Micah speaks directly to Bethlehem and predicts its greatness as the home of the shepherd who will defend God’s people.

The First Letter of Peter tells people who have already begun to identify Jesus Christ with the Messiah that he is the shepherd who willingly suffers to save the flock. The Gospel of Luke reassures the ‘little flock’ of Christ’s followers that they need have no fear, because God has promised them the Kingdom.

We receive these messages of consolation, directed to particular people at a particular time, in the context of our own concerns and longing for consolation. They invite us to take part in God’s transformation of inequality, violence and injustice, not to wait passively for these things to happen. They call on us to be politically aware; to be locally ready to make our churches little Bethlehems where Christ can be born in generosity and hospitality; to recognise ourselves as a ‘little flock’, unimportant perhaps in the world’s eyes, but with a value and a vocation in the great mystery of salvation.


Prayer
Good Shepherd,
the fragmentation of your ‘little flock’
grieves the Holy Spirit.
Forgive our weak efforts and slowness
in the pursuit of your will.

Go and do
(see http://www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)
Global: Visit Amos Trust to find out more about how to create peace with justice in the Middle East.
Local: Plan as churches together to pray for peace in the middle east on the 24th of every month. You can use resources from Christian Aid to aid your prayers.
Personal: Bring the fears that keep you in division from other traditions before the Good Shepherd in prayer. Meditate on the words of the Good Shepherd – ‘do not be afraid, little flock.’

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19 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day II.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”

Reflection – True Leadership
Jeremiah denounces the bad leadership of the kings of Israel who divided and scattered the people, a leadership that destroyed nations and drove their citizens into exile. In contrast, the Lord promises a shepherd-king who will ‘execute justice and righteousness in the land’ and gather the flock as one.

Only in Christ have we seen the example of a leader truly after God’s heart. In him we encounter a loving, humble servant who does not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. He comes to serve, rather than be served, and his followers are called to do the same.

Today, the Middle East is experiencing the loss of its people to exile as
‘righteousness and justice’ are becoming scarce commodities, not only there but throughout the world. Yet leaders, both in the world and in the Church, have a responsibility to bring together rather than to scatter or divide. The more faithfully Christians emulate the servant
leadership of Christ, the more division in both the world and the Church will be overcome. As we work for righteousness, justice and peace for all, we witness humbly to the shepherd-king, and draw others into his presence.

Readings

Jeremiah 23:1-6 He shall reign as king and deal wisely
Philippians 2:5-11 Who… did not regard equality with
God as something to be exploited.

Go and do
(see http://www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)
Global: Focus on a number of examples of where you consider good leadership to be evident. Try to identify the shared principles of leadership in these examples and consider how they can be encouraged in the work of creating unity.
Local: Invite a local leader to a gathering of the churches in your area to hear more about their work and to find out how you can best support and encourage them.
Personal: Find out about or refresh your memory on the circle of concern and circle of influence and consider how you can best exercise your personal leadership this week to help the cause of unity.

Prayer:
Just and righteous God,
we confess before you that we often covet worldly models of leadership.
Help us to seek our Lord Jesus Christ
not in the palaces of the powerful
but in the humble manger.
May we emulate him in his meekness
and become servants to each other
in obedience to you.
We pray in the name of Christ,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns forever in glory.
Amen.
Verse / Poem
It was the day of the strong men
the day when truth retired, redundant
because lies had more glitz,
and justice disabled, mocked,
in the name of a golden god
cast from melted down lives.

And then came the pestilence.
and the day of the servant
ubiquitous, anonymous,
in nursing home and ICU,
and the temple profligate with treasure
in cylinders of breath.


Questions
Global: How have you seen the Church follow Jesus’ pattern of leading through service?
Local: What Christian leader (either local or national) do you admire for the ability to inspire unity and a concern for justice? What qualities enable that person to lead effectively?
Personal: When have you been inspired to take the lead in seeking justice or working towards unity?

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14 June: Today this is my vocation II

This hymn by Sister Mary Xavier was a staple of my childhood. It is worth turning to when life seems pointless or confusing, and ‘Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray‘ is enough of a motto, enough of a prayer, to see us through every day. A vocation is something to be lived out day by day; sometimes a day can be very different to what we expect, but today is enough for us; we can worry about tomorrow when it comes.

Lord, for tomorrow and its needs
I do not pray;
keep me, my God, from stain of sin
just for today.

Let me both diligently work
and duly pray;
Let me be kind in word and deed,
just for today.

Let me be slow to do my will,
prompt to obey;
help me to sacrifice myself,
just for today.

Let me no wrong or idle word
unthinking say;
set thou a seal upon my lips
just for today.

Lord, for tomorrow and its needs
I do not pray;
but keep me, guide me, love me, Lord,
just for today.

Lyrics by Sybil Farish Partidge (1856 – 1917)  – alias Sister Mary Xavier. Public Domain.

Hear this hymn on Songs of Praise

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2 April: Good Friday

Here is Christina Rossetti’s meditation on Good Friday. The reference to a stone and a rock being struck goes back to Exodus 17; see below.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

So the people were thirsty there for want of water, and murmured against Moses, saying: Why didst thou make us go forth out of Egypt, to kill us and our children, and our beasts with thirst? And Moses cried to the Lord, saying: What shall I do to this people? Yet a little more and they will stone me.

And the Lord said to Moses: Go before the people, and take with thee of the ancients of Israel: and take in thy hand the rod wherewith thou didst strike the river, and go. Behold I will stand there before thee, upon the rock Horeb: and thou shalt strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink.

Moses did so before the ancients of Israel: And he called the name of that place Temptation, because the chiding of the children of Israel, and for that they tempted the Lord, saying: Is the Lord amongst us or not?

Exodus 17: 3-7

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5 March: Praying with Pope Francis

Intention for Evangelization: – Sacrament Of Reconciliation
Let us pray that we may experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation with renewed depth, to taste the infinite mercy of God.

Pope Francis and his advisors could hardly have foreseen the difficulties surrounding the Sacraments this Lent! How can we taste the infinite mercy of God at this time?

Here we see Francis opening a Door of Mercy at the beginning of his Year of Mercy; and quite a dramatic opening it was, too! The two acolytes making sure the doors don’t bang.Maybe we can set ourselves the task of opening our hearts this Lent to let the sunshine of forgiveness in and perhaps we might share a little with one or two confidants to make sure we don’t go overboard and hurt ourselves.

Now another door of mercy from Zakopane in Poland. Open and welcoming, especially decorated for the occasion. Notice the image of the good shepherd or Samaritan figure, seen below in close-up.

This was the logo of the Year of Mercy, but carved in the local style for this community and for all the visitors, like us, who called by to pray. The motto says Merciful like the Father. Quite a challenge! Mercy is not something to treasure like that single talent, but something to be lived by being merciful.

Krakow Cathedral

And finally this photo has been cropped to show the words, Porta Misericordiae, Door of Mercy. I can’t find the original which had the backs of people’s heads and shoulders. It’s easy to tidy other people out of sight, when really we are, as this year of covid reminds us, all in this together. So not just, Have mercy on me, a sinner, but also, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on US. Let us pray for each other, and when we can and however we can, let us offer each other a sign of peace.

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1 February. Emily Dickinson: Obedient to the least command.

I have to say that by no means all of Emily Dickinson’s verse speaks to me; this deceptively simple poem does, though I’m reluctant to analyse it too much and lose it. But ‘docile as a boy’? Sometimes a boy is docile and easily led and the sea can be docile, sometimes. ‘Along appointed sands’, as here in Margate, seen from another poet’s perch, the shelter where Eliot wrote. ‘Obedient to the least command’ does not sound like a statement of fact, more a statement of intent: from a storm-tossed Kent, I pray that the Good Shepherd will lead us beside quiet waters this year of Our Lord 2021.

The moon is distant from the sea,
And yet with amber hands
She leads him, docile as a boy,
Along appointed sands.


 He never misses a degree;
Obedient to her eye,
He comes just so far toward the town,
Just so far goes away.


 Oh, Signor, thine the amber hand,
And mine the distant sea, —
Obedient to the least command
Thine eyes impose on me.”

Series 2, Love XIII from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete

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30 June, Going Viral XL: God with us in the most challenging of times.

More reflection from Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury. I hope that by the time this is published the restrictions on people attending funerals will have been eased. Thank you again for allowing us to share your reflections, Jo.

Just back from another funeral, this really is tough with so few family and friends being present, to say goodbye to someone, and this morning reading Psalm 23 seemed to speak into the situation of being comforted by God’s presence in all that we are and all that we do. That sense of God with us both in the good times, and the most challenging of times. 

Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over. 
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.

I saw this yesterday from the Mother’s Union prayer diary, which I thought was lovely: Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting and tedious of all works. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.’ Corrie Ten Boom 1892- 1983.  

Rev Jo Richards,

Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury.

The Good Shepherd statue in St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

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