Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Good Shepherd Sunday - A Teaching Note for May 4, 2014

Continuing our Easter celebration (Easter is 50 days, just like Lent was 40 days), we have now come to Good Shepherd Sunday.
As a city/suburban boy, the idea of a shepherd is not an every day reality for me.  But it certainly was for Jesus and for most living in Palestine during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Even those who lived in a big city like Jerusalem (which compared to today’s big cities was quite small) would have experienced shepherds, or even had members of the family who were shepherds.
Journalist and historian Paul Johnson published a book called Jesus: A biography from a believer (Viking Press, 2010).  I heard a radio interview with him in which he engages in some speculative history.  Musing about those years between ages 12 and 30, when we have no gospel account of Jesus’ life, Johnson hypothesizes that perhaps Jesus himself spent some time as a shepherd.
Although I have heard some awful theories about those hidden years (the worst being that he went to India to learn tantric magic to use for healing ministry), Johnson’s thoughts are backed up with some loving care and discernment.  The tender way that Jesus speaks of shepherds, and their care and concern for their flocks, leads Johnson to theorize that Jesus speaks from some experience with caring for the sheep.
Whether or not Paul Johnson is correct about those hidden years, we do know that Jesus holds up the shepherd as an example of one who cares for his sheep, and is willing to even give his life for them.  Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd, and the word “pastor” comes from the Latin word for shepherd.  It is a fine reminder to those of us who are clergy that we are called to not be hirelings (who care not for the sheep), but to be shepherds to the congregations committed to our care.