1 Jn 3:1-2
In Sunday’s reading, Jesus talks to us about the Good Shepherd. He lays out for us the traits that set the good shepherd apart from just the hired hand. The shepherd is steadfast in times of peril. The shepherd knows his/her sheep and in turn the sheep recognizes the caring voice of the shepherd.
In the reading from Acts 4: 8-12, Peter is upset that there are people in the crowd who are questioning an act of healing that took place for a cripple. The crowd or at least some want to know in whose name this action was done. Peter filled with power of the spirit claims the healing in Jesus Christ the Nazorean.
As I thought about these two readings together, I wondered how many of us actually expect a miracle, a miracle as the result of one choosing to be a follower of Christ. The invitation as a follower of Christ to be attentive to the needs of people who are usually invisible, like the lame person was in the time of Peter? How many of us are willing to trust that there are people in our midst who are called to bring us to our whole selves?
Illness seems to be a difficult, yet extraordinary bridge for us as human beings to look both within and beyond ourselves to others for the living traits of the Good Shepherd. There seems to be a seeking, that longs for answers, ones that show the path through this time of peril, whether it leads to a physical cure or remission or the final transition.
As a hospice and hospital chaplain I am often asked to read the Twenty-third psalm for a patient and their family in the final hours of the patient’s life. Unlike so many other psalms that I read, I almost always have a soft chorus praying the psalm as I read it. It seems to bring calm, a handle to grab hold of, as we all enter that sacred space of transition from this life to the next.
It is so easy for me to take off my work badge, set down my bible for tomorrow’s “official” time of work and miss the unfolding needs of family and friends. I wonder how often I miss the opportunity to offer a smile, a moment of listening, and a slow down moment with someone who doesn’t need answers but presence?
How often am I, are we, missing the opening to be part of the path that the Twenty-third psalm invites us to be? When might my quiet presence with another give them the courage to hear the voice of the Shepherd? I don’t really see myself rebuking the crowd like Peter for their lack of faith…but I would love to see myself so full of the bigness of God and the breath of the Spirit that I could believe that God might use me to give flesh and bones to the Good Shepherd!