The good shepherd – 26 April 2021

Here a shepherd walks through the fields accompanied by her flock, in harmony with each other without a word being spoken. All is peaceful and calm. Here is a good shepherd.

The grass is green, and there is plenty of it. We can see far into the distance, and there is nothing that will trouble either the sheep or the shepherd. As she walks, the shepherd is knitting. She is wearing woollen garments: cloak, skirt, stockings. This suggests another harmony, involving the dependency of the shepherdess, and her family and community, on the sheep. The sheep, in their turn, are dependent on the care of the shepherd.

There are female shepherds in the Bible. We first meet Rachel as a shepherd: “Rachel came with her father’s sheep for she was their shepherd” (Gen. 29:6, 9). We are also introduced to Zipporah as a shepherd: “Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock” (Exod. 2:16). In Jesus’ day half the shepherds were women, as they are in the world today.

The picture is by Julien Dupré (1851 -1910), who through his career championed the life of the peasant, painting scenes in the areas of Normandy and Brittany.

 

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10:11-15

 

 

Down the dusty road together
Homeward pass the hurrying sheep,
Stupid with the summer weather,
Too much grass and too much sleep,
I, their shepherd, sing to thee
That summer is a joy to me.

 

Down the shore rolled waves all creamy
With the flecked surf yesternight;
I swam far out in starlight dreamy,
In moving waters cool and bright,
I, the shepherd, sing to thee
I love the strong life of the sea.

 

And upon the hillside growing
Where the fat sheep dozed in shade,
Bright red poppies I found blowing,
Drowsy, tall and loosely made,
I, the shepherd, sing to thee
How fair the bright red poppies be.

 

To the red-tiled homestead bending
Winds the road, so white and long
Day and work are near their ending
Sleep and dreams will end my song,
I, the shepherd, sing to thee;
In the dreamtime answer, answer me,
In the dreamtime answer, answer me.

Edward Elgar/Barry Pain, The shepherd’s song, 1892