I’m not a big fan of Good Shepherd Sunday. There I said it.
When we say Good Shepherd Sunday, what often happens is that many people get this image in their head of a calming, soothing Jesus, holding a perfectly clean shining white lamb over his shoulders, with a smile on his face, who walks so carefully as to not unwittingly step on a bug in his path. A Jesus who wouldn’t possibly say or do anything that would make anyone upset. Certainly not a Jesus who would challenge our beliefs about money, our political beliefs, our stuff, and our responsibility towards others and the rest of creation. A Jesus that takes care of all of our needs and desires — all we have to do is ask and he’ll give us whatever we want. It’s precious moments Jesus. Too many turn Jesus the Good Shepherd into Jesus the Good Customer Service Rep.
There’s a term for this in theological studies — Eisegesis. Eisegesis is a subjective method of interpreting Scripture that introduces our own opinions into the original writings, focusing more on your own ideas and viewpoints, rather than what is there in the text and the context. We see this play out in a variety of ways in our culture. Just read anything Jesus says and all of a sudden people are making definitive declarations about whether Jesus would be a Democrat or Republican based on the text — as if the Scriptures were written specifically for us, here in America in the 21 stcentury. That’s quite an assumption. The whole notion that Jesus would be a member of any political party in a nation that dominates or has influence on the world in so many ways — whether culturally, militarily, financially, politically, business, entertainment, and more — well, that’s quite a jump. It’s not based on any understanding of biblical or cultural context.
Good Shepherd Sunday is actually a great example of this — if we pay attention to the readings and the context of the readings. If we actually listen to what is being said. So, what’s actually going on?
What we hear today is the middle of the story. It’s like deciding to watch a two-hour movie and turning it on at the one-hour mark and turning it back off after about ten minutes. You don’t see the beginning, and the build up. And you don’t see where it leads to and how it turns out. You don’t…