This Sunday is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because we read Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd…) and the passage from John’s Gospel in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd… I know my sheep and they know my voice.” In preparation for this Sunday in the church year I read a variety of commentaries that draw out my own experiences. I shared one commentary with the Vestry on the good shepherd from Caela Simmons Wood at our meeting on Wednesday night and now I want to share it with you.
In her commentary, Caela Wood writes that the way we use our voice matters a lot. It’s not just the words we choose but the very tone of our voice that speaks volumes. The words we hear from parents, teachers and other adults create a soundtrack in our heads which mirrors the way we speak to ourselves. If adults spoke to you in kind tones and complimentary words, you will probably have a happy sounding soundtrack in your head. But, I know that others had adults speak in harsh ways and say negative things. If that is the case, it takes a lot of work to re-record the soundtrack in your head in a positive way. If you have a negative soundtrack in your head, Caela invites you to listen for the gentle Good Shepherd voice which beckons you with love, healing and a new life.
As we ponder what it means to have a Good Shepherd who knows all sheep by name and calls them to return to green pastures and crystal clear water, perhaps we should follow Caela’s advice and ponder our own voices – the ones we use on ourselves and on others. Do our inner voices model that of Jesus’ welcoming tone?
We are entering a 15-month election season in which we are going to hear negative voices, ads, and messages about the content and character of those seeking office. This is going to be anything but a soothing time in our media. But this is not the voice of our God. This is not how God calls us and it’s probably not the Voice that draws us to green pastures and still waters. Nevertheless, that gentle, caring and loving Voice exists; the pastures exist, the water exists, and you are worthy to be in the flock of the Great Shepherd.
Using Caela’s prayer, let us meditate and pray together,
Shepherd-of-the-kind-voice, help me to attune my ears to you. When the rest of the world speaks words of harm, open my ears to your gentle voice. Help me always to remember that I am loved, named, claimed… and help me to share that love with others. Amen. -Fr. Marshall