On my Sunday morning drive to church, I listen to “Sing for Joy” on WEMC 91.7, between 9-9:30am. This program plays sacred choral music and commentary that “prepares listeners for worship.” Each Sunday the program is based on the weekly biblical lectionary text; since I preach from the lectionary, my car becomes a mobile space for worship as I sing along. This past Sunday the selections were based on Psalm 23, which was the theme for our morning worship service. I was able to just rest in the text as I drove.

One of the choruses played was “All we like sheep” from Handel’s Messiah, text from Isaiah 53:6. I have sung in choirs performing the Messiah for many years, and I know this chorus well. But I noticed something new as I listened; Handel brilliantly composed the music to represent the capricious wandering away of the sheep!  I thought to myself, “Why have I never noticed that before?!” Each section of the choir, SATB, take turns musically wandering at an allegro pace all over the choral pastures; then suddenly the music shifts to adagio and all the sections come in with a resounding finality “And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” The very next chorus is “Worthy is the Lamb.” Give this beautiful song a listen. All we like sheep

The Bible consistently refers to God as Israel’s Shepherd, and Jesus declared himself the Good Shepherd and all humanity as sheep whom he seeks and rescues. Sheep have a natural tendency to wander, and their instinct is to flock together, so if one sheep goes, the rest will follow. Sheep need a shepherd to keep them safe, healthy, and alive. We humans have similar tendencies; independent and headstrong, restless and wanting “greener pastures,” prone to choose dangerous paths that only lead us away from the safe shelter of our loving Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: O Lord our God, gentle Shepherd of the flock, only in you will we find true security, only in you will we find our true identity as beloved sheep. We have wandered in restlessness and busyness, far from your pastures and waters of rest. We have preferred our own paths and put our own desires, goals, and needs first. Lead us, Lord. We fear evil and death around and within us. Comfort us, Lord. You care for all our needs, you anoint our wounds with soothing, fragrant oil, filling our cups again and again with Your grace. Thank you, Lord. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned to our own way. But you, Lord, have laid the sins of us all on Christ, the Lamb. Forgive us, Lord. Holy Shepherd, you know each of us, your sheep, by name. Your beauty and love chase after us every day of our lives, until we are back home safely in the embrace of the Good Shepherd. Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and trust until we celebrate with you forever in the feast you have prepared in your house. In Jesus’ name, amen.  

I’m praying for you, Pastor Deb