Needing New Life: Nick Utphall reflects on following the Good Shepherd.
Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary
Readings for Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A (2020, 2023)
1 Peter 1:19-25
Editor’s Note: In his commentary for the Sundays before and after Earth Day, Nick Utphall reflected on Easter, Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, and the coronavirus. He continues these themes with the following thoughts about the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Some pastoral and rural peace may be just the ticket for these days. Let’s get out of the house and follow the Shepherd! These days, it doesn’t even require the frequent explications of ancient shepherding practices or the personality quirks of ovine taxonomy.
For those who may not be able to venture out and explore favorite open spaces and beloved scenery, for living without trips to parks and places of recreation and re-creation, perhaps the occasion invites reflecting on or finding pictures of very earthly real places connected to Psalm 23 (with a good basic Earth Day background that we won’t save what we don’t love). Here’s a starter walkthrough for a mental exploration with the Shepherd:
Verse 2a: Where are the green pastures for you in these days, the outdoor places of abundance and lush, vibrant life? Or where are the places you’ve valued but cannot make it actually to visit right now?
Verse 2b: Where are the still waters? What physical bodies of water have been part of offering you peace and contentment? How have you felt, and how can you access that now?
Verse 3: What pathways have been restorative of life? Where are the trails where you have found more of your identity? Who are the guides who have been with you outdoors?
Verse 4: Where have you walked alongside and amid death, perhaps especially in these days? Where has it been fearful and scary? What makes those places or aspects uneasy? And what has been a resource of faith?
(The remaining verses have less outdoor natural imagery, but may spur reflection on what has been spread on our tables to nourish and sustain us, with gratitude for those who have run the enemy gauntlet of coronavirus to deliver food down highways, through stores, in delivery vehicles. And while having to “dwell in a house forever” may sound more like punishment right now when many might be feeling stuck and isolated, perhaps their remains positive room for reflecting on where goodness and mercy or loving-kindness has surrounded and filled these days of life.)
Especially when disease lurks, threatening to steal and kill and destroy—along with all the other causes of diminishing God’s lavish loving goodness—this is the time to remember the Good Shepherd came that we may have life abundantly (John 10:10). And not just us, but sheep, and those who are in need (Acts 2:45), and all who are senselessly and unjustly suffering (1 Peter 2:19), the residents of green pastures, still waters, forest pathways, and dark valleys.
Originally written by Nick Utphall in 2020. Read more by Nick Utphall at https://utphall.wordpress.com/