This May Day weekend is another reminder of how our lives are currently lived under political rules and regulations. It seems that every single day there is new news, new numbers, new statistics to work from. New data for our political and community governance to analyse and make decisions on which affect how we carry on our daily lives. One thing that doesn’t seem to have changed though, except maybe in its escalation, is our propensity to have and promote our opinions of our political leaders and their advisors.
Yet today, as we read such a familiar passage as Psalm 23, and look for God’s assurance of security and comfort, I wonder if we are able for a moment to imagine ourselves as real sheep in a paddock, grazing contentedly and safely together under the watchful gaze of our loving Shepherd? ....
Take a look around - who is in the paddock with us? Our church brothers and sisters of course, our families, our neighbours, our friends. But who else? Our Christian faith is founded on the understanding that Jesus came to love, save and keep company with every single person that God has created. How then does this lens of Christian love for all help us see the other inhabitants of our safe, protected pasture? Can we imagine that one of those sheep is Scott Morrison, whose Christian beliefs have been questioned by many over the years? Or Anastacia Palaszczuk, whose decisions on care of the environment have often been heavily criticised by planet-lovers both Christian and secular? Or, heaven forbid – what if that sheep next to me is Donald Trump chewing nonchalantly on the juiciest clump of grass in the whole field?
Psalm 23 was written for all of us, regardless of our status in the societies we live in. And while it’s hard to think we wouldn’t just wander over to a political sheep and give them a good nudge with our horns, this also includes others in society that challenge our emotions and thoughts towards them. Who DIDN’T feel devastated and outraged last week on behalf of the four police officers killed, and their families? But this driver too, is in our paddock, over near the boundary fence for fear of persecution by any of us; alongside those in jail, the homeless, and anyone and everyone in society who challenges our Christian call to love and accept all as ourselves.
We are called to love the other sheep in our paddock with the same love, grace and acceptance as our Shepherd gives us. Phillip Keller, the author of a little book called “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”, grew up in East Africa surrounded by simple native herders. He himself became a sheep owner and rancher, and in later years was the lay Pastor of a community church. Phillip wraps up his little book with these beautiful words – “I have a thrilling awareness of God all around me. I live surrounded by God’s presence, living life open to God’s scrutiny. Our Lord is conscious of every circumstance I encounter. I know I am attended with care and concern because I belong – what an assurance! I shall dwell in the presence (in the care of) the Lord forever.”
Intimately loved, and never alone. Amen.
reflection by Jeni Nix for Sunday 3 May 2020
Jo Inkpin, Penny Jones, Jeni Nix, Peter Jeffery, Ann Edwards, Elizabeth McConnell