April 26, 2015
John 10:11-18
1 John 3:16-24
Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23

Greener Pastures
Easter 4

Full installment posted Tuesday afternoon.

Mary Austin
This week’s lectionary texts center around the theme of the Good Shepherd, who “restores [our] soul” and “lays down his life for the sheep.” The epistle and gospel passages outline the behavior that characterizes a good shepherd -- First John tells us that because Jesus “laid down his life for us... we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” But as Jesus repeatedly warns the disciples, there will be many who pretend to be good shepherds but who when the moment of truth comes instead reveal themselves as a “hired hand, who... sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away -- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.”

In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Mary Austin points out that there’s no shortage of “great pretenders” in our world -- and there may be no better example than the campaigns of newly declared presidential candidates. Politics today (and its media coverage) often seems to revolve around the art of appearing to identify with the “average Joe” -- as Jon Stewart artfully lampooned about Hillary Clinton’s recent lunch stop at a Chipotle. Campaigns are designed to present candidates as worthy of being good shepherds for the nation -- yet voters often experience “buyer’s remorse” when those elected exercise power in an entirely different manner once in office. But as Mary notes, political candidates aren’t the only ones who are “great pretenders” -- we all can easily fall into the same trap, especially when the pursuit of worldly success puts our life out of balance. Jesus, on the other hand, demonstrates the qualities of a true shepherd -- sacrificing himself to care for and protect the flock. Here’s a preview:


Greener Pastures
by Mary Austin
John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24

Spring means that presidential campaigns are springing up faster than flowers, with Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul as well as former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally in the race -- and others likely to join them. Joe Biden? Chris Christie? Scott Walker? Even Bernie Sanders has said he’s thinking about it. As the candidates take up the full-time job of campaigning, voters assess them based on their records, their clothing choices, their spouses, their beliefs, and how they “feel” to people. Each candidate will spend the next year and a half announcing himself or herself as the most qualified person to run the country. There’s no room for doubt, and scarcely any for ordinary human mistakes. 

In contrast, Jesus never aspired to any formal position of leadership, or ran for anything with a title. Understanding that the people of God are like sheep, frightened and silly, he proclaimed himself to be simply the Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd prompts us to look again at what qualities make a good leader, and how we choose people who will lead, inspire, and nurture us. 

>> Full installment posted Tuesday afternoon.

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter