The Good Shepherd: Goodness and Mercy
by Pastor Bill Geis

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:6

Sometime in the near future (it’s a secret), I’ll be a “mystery reader” to St. John’s School first graders. Each year volunteers make surprise visits and read a favorite book to the class. Teacher, Holly Hackelberg, has creatively encouraged children to read with this annual ritual. With just a few weeks left of school, the children can be a little distracted. The possibility of a surprise visitor—who could come at any time—is met with great delight.

I’ll have to keep the day and hour of my visit a secret, but I’ll “whisper” to you the book I’m going to read. It’s a book my mother read to me and one I read many times to my children by P. D. Eastman, “Are You My Mother?” Shhhhh… Don’t tell the kids!

I suspect many of you have read the book with your children and grandchildren. It’s the story of a baby bird whose mother anticipates her child’s arrival. And when the time is very near, the mother leaves her nest to gather food. But while that mother is away that egg, “jumped and jumped and jumped… [and] out came the baby bird!”

Instinctively that baby bird is led to ask, “Where is my mother?” And thus begins the baby’s journey of seeking his mother. Not knowing what his mother looks like, he walks right by her. He comes upon a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a cow. He meets up with an old car, a boat, a plane and a mighty excavator (which sounds like a “SNORT”). To each new discovery he asks, “are you my mother?”.

That big old snort frightens the baby bird; but the unseen operator is the one to bring him home to his mother. The excavator puts the baby bird gently back in his nest where he meets his mother.

The story can be a picture of birth and separation, of being lost and searching in vain; of the unseen operator who rescues and brings us home. On this Mother’s Day weekend, we use a similar imagery. Though we speak not of birds and snorts; we tells the stories of shepherds and sheep. Mothers, fathers, and many “shepherds” in our lives are really like that “snort” in our story. Whenever God uses us to care for a child, to pick up a lost soul, to carry the frightened and to calm the confused, we are really instruments of that unseen operator and the Good Shepherd of lives.

The ultimate mother of our lives is our tender loving God who feeds and redeems us; whose nest we shall live in for eternity. Yet along each of our journeys, God has surrounded us with his instruments of goodness and mercy: family and friends, teachers and mentors, indeed every faithful witness. No doubt, each of us could name many “shepherds” who helped us MEET JESUS. It’s also why we are so committed to have St. John’s increasingly grow to be a place where many more can say they received goodness and mercy here. That is what it means to EXPERIENCE OF THE SUPPORT OF A CHURCH.

This week is the climatic moment of our meditations on Psalm 23. In its grand conclusion, the psalm asks us to ponder how God will use each of us to shepherd others. He is the unseen operator behind those who LIVE AS HIS DISCIPLES.

Jesus once invited us all to ask the spiritual question, “who is my mother?” And then he answered his own question by pointing to us (see Matthew 12:48-49). Through the gracious hand of that Great Shepherd, we are blessed by mothers and shepherds who lovingly carry the children and the lost, the frightened and the confused to Jesus.

How will “goodness and mercy” now follow you?

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