The Good Shepherd
Today I drove out to New River and met Bishop Jennifer Reddall at the home of a dear friend and retired priest who died of cancer. We offered last rights and prayers for the Rev. Liz Simmons with her sister, friend, and several dogs.
Liz and I served on Commission on Ministry together fifteen years ago, worked on Chapel Rock committees and summer camps, and served young adults and parishes around the Diocese before she went off to Alaska and other dioceses.
In the midst of life we face death. She treated her diagnosis with faith, trusting God and turning toward home and family. She knew she would die and wanted to care for the details and others along the way. Her life became a sermon.
This week we will gather to hear about the Good Shepherd. Rebecca mentioned it last week, but every reading this week is about Jesus as shepherd. “My sheep know my voice . . .”
But it is Psalm 23 where most of us find our comfort, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,/I will fear no evil. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”
As we begin to follow Jesus we come to learn that death is part of the equation, but it has no power over us, because we trust where we are going and who belong to. We do not have to have fear.
Liz was not afraid. Well, maybe a little, she told me once. But she trusted that the God who raised Jesus from the dead would also take care of her. And because she knew that, she was able to care for others throughout her life.
This is the path, the narrow path our Shepherd leads us on to eternal life. Walking on that path we listen to his voice and trust his rod and staff to comfort and to guide us as we go.
Every now and then we top out a ridge somewhere, and the view drops off around us into infinity, and we taste the wind and know the Lord is good.
Let us journey together, brothers and sisters, and we come to know our Shepherd’s voice and follow wherever he calls us.