Yesterday was “Good Sheperd Sunday” in the Episcopal Church. The reading all mentioned the concept of Jesus as a leader and several mentioned the sheperd-sheep metaphor for God’s relationship with us. The Psalm, as you might guess, was Psalm 23, the most famous passage in the Old Testament. For most, it’s a wonderful song of confidence in the Lord’s goodness made manifest in the world and our lives. Of course there were always be a few who try to demonstrate how oh-so-clever they are by pointing out that a sheperd bosses around sheep and eventually kills them. Yes, that’s a very clever observation, isn’t it?
In fact, the sheperd-sheep relationship suggests precisely the opposite, namely that God cares for us in a special way. The basic fact about sheep is this: that they provide meat, milk, and wool, all in good quality and high quantity. That makes sheep a very useful animal, and it’s no surprise that sheep have been very valuable from the dawn of agriculture until today. There are other livestock too, of course. The Psalm could have said, “The Lord is my goatherd, I shall not want”. But it doesn’t. It says, “The Lord is my sheperd, I shall not want.” In other words, the psalmist chose the metaphor that suggests that we (the sheep) have the maximum possible value to God (the sheperd).
With that said, I now offer you an adorable picture of some sheep: