Monday Morning Offering: 4/27

Image: George Mendoza

(What can I say?  The image of the Lord as my shepherd is a big one for me so it's been my coloring my prayer - and yours, if you've been pausing to pray with me...)

Good morning, good God!

I need a shepherd, Lord,
and you're the Good Shepherd
whose voice I listen for,
whose word I want to hear,
whose path I want to follow...

But, so often I get lost
and need a shepherd even more...

So I offer you my need to be guarded, to be guided,
to be led along the path
that leads to happiness and peace...

I off you my longing
to be refreshed, renewed
and reconciled to your ways...

I offer you my hope
that I'll learn to want for nothing
save the things I truly need,
the gifts you freely offer...

I offer you my prayer
that I might come to see
how every blessing flows from you...

I offer you my plea
to be guided through the valley of my fears
to the meadows where your peace will bring me joy...

As a good shepherd does, Lord,
alert me to the wolf's approach,
to evil when it nears my path:
help me to trust that you are by my side,
always and forever...

Open my eyes, my heart and hands
that I might shepherd others, Lord,
whose paths cross my mine this day
and through the week ahead...


(Here's a beautiful adaptation of Psalm 23:
may it bring you peace today...)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need,
He makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters he will lead.

He restores my soul, he rights my wrongs,
He leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
He has said he won't forsake me,
I'm in his hand.

He sets a table before me in the presence of my foes,
He anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in his house,
Forever, forever and ever.

Glory be to our Father, and Brother,
And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
Life, without end.  Amen.

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Homily for April 26

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

In naming himself our good shepherd,
Jesus reminds us that he knows us:
“I know my sheep, and they know me.”

The Lord knows me -- the Lord knows you --  
the Lord knows everyone of us
better than anyone else knows us or possibly could know us.
The Lord knows me infinitely better than I know myself.

Now, consider what all this means.

It means the Lord knows every one of my faults,
he knows all of my secrets;
he knows things about me that no one else knows;
he knows things about me that I don’t know;
he knows my every thought and desire;
he knows everything I don’t want anyone else to know about me!
All of this is as disturbing as it is true!

And yet, in spite of all the Lord knows about me
– and how well he knows me  - and each of you -
still, he’s willing to lay down his life for us 
-- for every one of us.

Sometimes I might be tempted to think
that the Lord’s knowledge of me
is information entered in a perfectly accurate database,
storing every one of my thoughts, words and deeds,
past, present – and future!
And it’s true that there’s nothing about me the Lord doesn’t know.

But more important than all that knowledge is this: 
the Lord knows my story.

The Lord knows the narrative that links together
all the data in the file he might be keeping on me.

My life is much more than the sum of all my words and deeds.
My life is the story of my relationship with God
and with others, near and far, who are part of my story.

So, in addition to knowing everything I’ve ever done –
the Lord also knows why I did it
and what was its impact, for good or for ill
on me and my relationship with God and with others.

Besides knowing every thought that has ever crossed my mind–
the Lord knows where each thought came from, how it got there,
what I did with it, and how it touched my relationship
with him and with others in my life.

As well as knowing my every desire, every want, every lust,
the Lord also knows well what are my deepest and truest needs
and all the ways, good and bad, that I try to satisfy them.

The Lord, my good shepherd, knows me
and knows my story,
knows the whole of my story
– and he knows you and your story just as well.

And he knows the stories behind our stories.

He knows the simplicities and the complexities,
the joys and the sorrows,
the selfishness and the generosity,
the strengths and weaknesses,
the hopes and disappointments,
the talents and disabilities
and the circumstances and opportunities
that are part of every one of our stories - yours and mine
- and the story of us all together as his people, as the Church.

And he knows and understands how all of these
contribute to the twists and turns, the ups and downs,
the graces and the challenges that weave together
our thoughts, words, deeds, choices and decisions
- into the story that each of our lives is.

But… to say that the Lord knows and understands our stories
does not free us from accountability for our lives and our deeds.
In the greatest story of all, the story of God’s love for all of us,
you and I are living, human characters in God’s story,
created by God and called by God to write the stories of our lives
– as a response to his love for us.

We’re responsible not only for our thoughts, words and deeds:
we’re responsible for the narrative that knits them all together
and responsible for the relationship with God and with others
we spend our lives strengthening – or weakening.

Our psychologized culture might tempt us to think,
maybe even to wish,
that understanding why I did or failed to do something
excuses me from personal responsibility for it.

A faith perspective looks at what I did or failed to do something
precisely to help me to take responsibility for it
and to help me, with God’s grace,
to make changes in the narrative,
to change the story line,
that I might more faithfully and generously respond to God’s love
and to the love of those around me.

God loves my story and God loves your story,
not because our stories are perfect (they are not!)
but because they are our stories - and he loves us.
It’s in and through the stories of our lives that God meets us
and makes his home in our hearts – and saves us.

The good shepherd knows me as his own
- and he knows me inside out.
And he good shepherd knows you as his own
- and he knows you inside out.

And the good shepherd knows our stories
and with his Spirit’s help he is ever by our side
as we write a new chapter in those stories every day.

That the Lord knows me as well as he does
is no reason to be afraid of him but rather a reason to rejoice
since he himself is no stranger to the human story,
he himself lived our narrative of human pain and suffering,    
even through death, laying down his life
to take it up again – and rise.

We gather here every weekend to tell the story of God’s love for us,
in Word and in Sacrament,
precisely to refresh in our minds and hearts the pattern
by which we’re called to shape and live our own stories.

As we tell again, today, the story of Jesus’ love for us,
of how, on the night before he died, he gave himself to us at his Table
and then on the next day gave himself for us
on the altar of the Cross,
as we tell that story again,
may the narrative of love we hear and celebrate
shape and change the stories of our lives,
our relationship with God,  
until his story becomes ours and our story becomes his.

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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 4/26

Good Shepherd by Ilse Kleyn

I was searching for art for Good Shepherd Sunday and came across this contemporary work by Ilse Kleyn.  My first thought was of a FaceBook friend who regularly posts photos of himself and his young son.  It's clear from his posts that Greg is shepherding his boy through the early years of life with love, devotion, strength, protection - and pure joy: a good shepherd!  I then began to think of the many "good shepherds" in all of our lives who guide us, guard us and keep us safe and on the right path.  Thus, today's Pause for Prayer...

Good Shepherd of us all,
I thank you today for all the good shepherds in my life
and for all the ways you've shepherded me
through their love, their watchful presence,
their devotion and protection...

I thank you for my parents, my first shepherds,
for their protection and the shelter of their love,
for all they sacrificed for me
to help me grow...

I thank you for the shepherds
who taught me, who counseled and directed me,
who shaped me and helped me to become
the person I am today...

I thank you for the shepherds
in my family and all my friends
who comfort me and challenge me,
who dry my tears and make me laugh,
who stay close by my side...

I thank you for shepherds
whose names I do not know, who stand in harm's way
'round my town and 'round the world,
keeping vigil through the night to keep me safe,
standing guard that I might sleep without a worry...

I thank you for the shepherds you've called home,
especially those gone much too soon,
whose gentle shepherd's crook I miss,
whose presence still abides within my heart...

I thank you for the shepherds
who remember me in prayer,
who keep me in the sheepfold of your grace,
lifting up my name and needs to you,
my good and gentle shepherd,
Good Shepherd of us all...


Good Shepherd Sunday by austin fleming on Grooveshark


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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 4/25

Image source

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the meadows where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me along the right path;he is true to his name. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort...
-Psalm 23

A place where I want for nothing?
Meadows, fresh and green?
Restful waters to lift my spirits?
Sounds great -- I'm there, Lord!

Well, actually, it's more like I want to get there
and since on many days I'm not there,
I just might need someone 
to lead me on the right path, in the right direction -
someone to shepherd me...

I need someone like you, Lord, to shepherd me 
from nagging problems and troubles and fears,
from too many worries and distractions 
that keep me from just that peaceful place within me
where you wait, patiently, 
wait for me to settle down and rest
in the peace that only you can give...

Give me grace to find this place of peace,
the place I often miss because I run too fast
or waste my time or begin to think that I can find
on my own, without your help,
without you there to shepherd me...

Without your shepherd's lead I lose my way,
without your shepherd's crook I go astray,
without your shepherd's voice to call my name
I wander in dark valleys, in confusion and in fear...

But I know you're by my side, Lord,
always showing me the way and finding me
when I run off alone...

Be my shepherd, Lord, 
and lead me and guide me
to the meadows of your peace...


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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 4/24

Take a few minutes with this time-lapse video...  

Then pause for prayer and ask...

What simple beauty sweeps slowly through my life, unnoticed?

What missed magnificence surrounds me?

What gossamer waves do I mistake for clouds?

What light hallows and haloes the shadows I fear?

What heavens crown my every night with jewels?

Open my eyes, O Lord, lest I miss even a glimpse
of how you are revealed wherever I am,
wherever I go...


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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 4/23

Folks ask me, Lord,
(they ask me all the time)
to pray for them...

Some are sick,
some need work,
some are grieving,
some are lonely,
some confused
and some not sure
of how to pray themselves...

So, I pray for them, Lord,
all the time,
I pray for them...

But today, Lord, I want to pray for folks
whose hearts are burdened more than most,
whose plates are piled high with with cares,
whose problems come in bunches...

I pray for folks who try so hard
but just can't seem to catch a break
- through no fault of their own...

I pray for folks down on their luck,
who wait a turn that doesn't come,
whose hope is wearing thin...

For folks for whom things don't work out,
who try and try again and don't give up:
for these I pray...

For those who seek another chance,
another opportunity to move ahead,
for these folks, Lord, I pray...

For those who strain to hear
a word of comfort, some good news,
a bit of joy - for these I pray...

So, Lord,
could you cut my friends some slack?

That's what I pray today...

I pray you pierce their darkness
and the clouds that overshadow them
till your bright light shines full upon their hearts...

I pray to know the words and deeds,
the ways that I might offer help,
to lift up those bowed down...

I pray a generous share of peace,
serenity and blessings
on those who need them most...

Be their shelter, strength and refuge, Lord,
the answer to their prayers 
- and mine for them...



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Music for the Weekend

Image source

April 26 on the church calendar this year is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, often called Good Shepherd Sunday because every year the gospel on this Sunday offers one of the several images of Christ as our Shepherd.  For this weekend's scriptures, see this earlier post and below you'll find a widget with 12 settings of Psalm 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd.  The widget will also be on the sidebar for easy reference later in the week.

Good Shepherd Sunday by austin fleming on Grooveshark


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Word for the Weekend: APRIL 26

Image: St. John Icon Studio

That sheep on Jesus' shoulders?
That sheep might be you...
That sheep might be me...

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday because every year on this date the gospel presents us with an image of the Lord as shepherd.

Here are this Sunday's texts and background material on them and here are hints for helping children prepare to hear the Word this weekend.

This Sunday's texts might be briefly summarized this way:
Jesus the rejected
Jesus the unknown
Jesus the shepherd
This Sunday's first lesson gives us Christ as "the stone rejected by the builders" while the second lesson speaks of the intimacy God shares with us, his children. The reading points out that sometimes we're not recognized as God's own - but then again, neither was Jesus.  The gospel offers one of the best known images of Christ.

The beautiful icon above is a striking image of the gospel's presentation of Christ the Shepherd who lays down his life for us, his flock - on the Cross.

That sheep on Jesus' shoulders?
That sheep might be you
or that sheep might be me...


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what's God's job for me today?
Who's waiting for my help?
my encouragement?
my compassion?

Who's waiting
to hear from me?
to see me?
to lean on me?

Who's waiting for God's help
to come through my touch,
my words,
my care?

Who's waiting for me
to do that little job
God's been waiting for me to do?

Let me think for a minute...
Of course!
I know who it is...

Gotta get to work on this!



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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY

Sunrise photo by Bob Bowers

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking,
God in my choosing, 
God in my doing,
God in my being,
God in my sleeping,
God in my dreaming,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my waiting,
God in my caring,
God in my hoping,
God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

Dwell in me, Lord,
and in all I do today:
in every breath

and in every step I take...

Remain in me, Lord:
let no step I take

lead me from you or draw me
away from your path...

Live in me, Lord, 

make your home in heart,
deep in my soul, in the peace
only you can give...

- A variation on a Celtic Prayer


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