This depiction of the Good Shepherd is in the West window of our chapel. We do have the most amazing stained glass windows, with their strong colors, and the predominant blue.
However, this particular window caught my eye yesterday, not because of the colors or the quality of craftsmanship, but because of the lamb and the way Jesus is holding it.
Jesus is not cuddling it, or holding it firmly with his hand. Rather, the lamb looks somewhat precariously balanced on Jesus's arm! And yet the little creature looks perfectly comfortable, and unconcerned. Indeed, the lamb looks rather pleased that is it up there right next to Jesus's heart (a look my dog Buster has when he has gained his prized place on my lap!)
Assured and confident of being loved and valued, the lamb looks out onto the world and its dangers with no fear, or anxiety for its future. It feels safe. It could easily jump down, yet chooses to stay close to the heartbeat of the world.
"We are the sheep of his pasture," the 'lambs of his fold'. Where that lamb in the glass image is placed, is where each one of us can be.
I wonder if you feel as confident and trusting as that little lamb? I wonder if you can feel the closeness of the beating heart of our Good Shepherd God in your life today?
Barbara Harris was the very first woman in the Anglican Communion to become a bishop. She faced many challenges and much hate in this pioneering vocation. And yet her faith remained strong. Last week she left this world and returned to the loving God who she knew always had her back.
Sometimes we are so consumed by what is facing us that we cannot see anything else. Our minds go into overdrive, churning over the problem, inventing conversations or scenarios, making plans, revising plans, ditching plans, wondering if this will ever end, or how it will end.
Such behaviour is very human, and understandable. Just read a lot of the psalms and you’ll see what I mean! However, remaining too long in such a state of mind is unhelpful, and unhealthy, both for ourselves and for those around us. Return to those psalms! See how the writer entwines his lament with reminders to himself how God has cared for him, or for God’s people in the past. See how the writer declares confidence that somehow God will see him through this current crisis. See how the writer comes to realise that God is bigger than any problems humans can face, and the way forward is to trust God. When you make that leap of faith and lean back into the God behind you, the God who has your back, you can breathe more easily, think more clearly, and know that, whatever happens, in life and in death, the God of love, the Good Shepherd will never let you go.
Just as Sundays are all mini Resurrection Days, so Fridays are mini Good Fridays. Friday has typically been a Fast Day in many churches. It is a day to eat very simply, and spend more time on spiritual feasting. In Lent Friday is the day to pray the Great Litany. It reminds us just how much our lives depend on the love, mercy, and grace of God. In these difficult times it is all too easy to focus on ourselves, our fears, our disrupted lives. The Great Litany encourages u to broaden our concerns and prayers beyond our own needs and concerns. That is not to dismiss those things that bother us, but to remind ourselves of those who have it a lot harder than we do.Find the Great Litany in your prayer book, or online, and include it in your prayers tonight, tomorrow, on a particular day each week. Pray it slowly and thoughtfully. Let God speak to you in that prayer.Please be assured that Vanessa+ and Isabel+ are here for you. If you would like someone to talk to, we are happy to make ourselves available by telephone, Skype, FaceTime, etc. If you email, or text us, or leave a message on the office phone, we will arrange a time to have a conversation with you. You may also message us through this page. We love you and care about you. God bless you all.
The Revd Vanessa Cato
Revd Cato, former rector of Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, leads the children in stories from the Bible.