Sunday 25 April 2010

Bible Book:

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." (v.1)

Psalm 23 Sunday 25 April 2010


For most of my life I have lived in the city and so, for me, theimagery of sheep and shepherds is not one that sits easily withcontemporary urban culture. Even though I have met a few shepherdsit is not easy to appreciate the work they do and what being ashepherd entails. The role of a contemporary shepherd will havedifferences and similarities with biblical shepherds who, as partof their job, would spend days up on the hills alone, sometimeshaving to fend off wild animals.

The biblical idea of God and then Jesus as shepherd led, in theChurch, to the notion of pastoral care - a practice and disciplinethat again needs to be prioritised within the Church. But writerslike Riet Bons-Storm (a Dutch feminist theologian) say that thewhole image of sheep and shepherd is one of inequality: the termpastoral can be disempowering, if not insulting, to those receivingsuch care. The very term 'pastoral' therefore can produceambivalence because of the above reasons but, in addition, thinkultimately what happens to sheep? They are bred to end up on ourdinner table!

However, the shepherds that I have met have been people who haveworked very hard. During lambing season we would rarely see them atchurch, or at anything else, because they were working such longhours and needed to be there for the animals. They are people whoare committed, who work extremely hard and who put their animalsfirst. Despite the reservations expressed about the term pastoralthe dedication of those shepherds are a mirror of the love that Godshows for us.

To Ponder

How do you respond to the criticism of the words'shepherd' and 'pastoral'?

How might we make the idea of God and Jesus asour 'shepherd' relevant for a contemporary urban situation?

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