Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good, Gooder, Goodest

The Good Shepherd  
Eric Gill

I am the good shepherd.  
I know my own and my own know me, 
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. 
And I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 10:14-15 NRSV

We know love by this, 
that he laid down his life for us— 
and 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?
1 John 3:16-17 NRSV

I am preaching this Sunday. It is to be my first since starting priestly formation. 

The above above the verses I am going to focus on. It strikes me there are three main points here:

The Good Shepherd
The Shepherd will sacrifice his life for his flock
His sheep know him and he knows them

The Good Shepherd.
Good is very non commital word. That was a good game of footie. You team may have won, but not convincingly. Mistakes were made, but enough was done to get a two point win. Or that was a good bbq. The sausies were a bit burnt, but the salads were fine. Maybe not everyone turned up. In our time of overstatement, the term good can almost seem to have a negative connotation. We know other words, like wonderful, excellent, amazing, fantastic. A term like good doesn't really cut it.

The thing here is that Jesus didn't really mean "good". The translators thought it was the best equivalence. The word in question means more than good. The good here is not just a moral rightness, but an attractive quality. The beautiful shepherd.  What we are really dealing with here is the beauty of holiness; the perfect shepherd as oppossed to an ordinary shepherd.

What is the difference between this perfect shepherd and a run of the mill guy who herds sheep?
I lay down my life for the sheep

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