I AM NOT THE GOOD SHEPHERD
The Second Sunday of Easter was for many years known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” from the theme found both in the Epistle (I Peter 2:19) and the Gospel (John 10:11) appointed for that day. This is no longer the case—at least not in the Episcopal Church. For the Second Sunday of Easter, the lectionary of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer now appoints a large portion of the twentieth chapter of John’s Gospel. The passage is the story of Jesus’ first appearance to his disciples and his appearance to Thomas. The shepherd discourse and the stories that follow it in John 10 are now read on the Fourth Sunday of Easter and on the weekdays after it. One verse was “lost,” but many more have been gained. Yes, a beautiful collect for church unity that Thomas Cranmer adapted from the Sacramentary of Gelasius is gone, sadly. In its place, however, is a lovely new collect written by Massey Shepherd (how appropriate, don’t you think?) that draws out several aspects of the theme that runs through many of the new lections for this Sunday and the weekdays that follow on it.
By the time this week is over, the following collect will have been said about fifteen times in the services at Saint Mary’s:
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Since the rector is away this week, I have been the celebrant at all the midday Masses (except Thursday, my day off), which has allowed me to meditate rather deeply upon this collect and theme. As a result of these ovine musings, I’ve come to this conclusion: I am NOT the good shepherd. Not only am I not the good shepherd because I lack the goodness required for the position, but I am also not the good shepherd because I am not a shepherd. I am not, even as curate, an “associate shepherd.” I am a sheep. We are all but sheep: timid, defenseless creatures “related to the goats but stockier” (as Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, with its usual theological insight, puts it).
Pastoral images of ministry belong more to other New Testament texts than to John 10. These texts have influenced the church’s images of its leaders such that in many traditions the ordained minister is commonly, or even exclusively referred to as the “pastor,” and ministerial care of the congregation is referred to as “pastoral care.” Jesus as the good shepherd becomes a model for other shepherds who would lead the “sheep.” Sometimes such notions can even result in setting the church’s “shepherds” apart from the rest of the sheep.
Please don’t mishear me; I hope that, to the extent possible, my life in orders will be patterned on and conformed to the life of Jesus who laid down his life for the life of the sheep. I don’t exactly relish the idea, mind you. Dying to sin and self is a hard row to hoe. Were resurrection not the reward, “we of all men [would be] most miserable.” The lections and collect this week, however, have impressed upon me a deeper sense than I ever had before that all who gather around Jesus receive their identity as members of one flock, and this one flock has only one shepherd. To be a member of this flock is to know oneself as being among those for whom Jesus, the one and only Good Shepherd, was willing to die and rise again. Ordained or lay—we are all just sheep, and “all we like sheep have gone astray.” But thanks be to God, we sheep hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, and he knows us, and he gives us eternal life. Matthew Weiler, curate
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Bettyann, Eileen, Fred, Jerri, Myra, Mary, Sarah, Doreen, Mabel, Gloria, Marion, Olga, Peter, Betty, Kenneth, Maureen, Marie, Rick, Edgar, John, Joanne, Barbara, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 3: 1947 Rachel Howland, May 4: 1995 Alexandrina Patricia Hunte, May 5: 1965 Elizabeth Perrigo.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday, April 28, at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Andante tranquillo from Sonata, Op. 65, No. 3 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and the postlude will be Processional by William Mathias (1934-1992). Mathias, born in Wales, was an important composer during his lifetime, and received a number of important commissions, including the Royal Wedding Anthem for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis in G-dur, KV 49 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Though it is a Missa brevis (short Mass), one still finds that Viennese settings such as this are a bit lengthier in sections than many other Mass settings sung at Saint Mary’s. This reflects the liturgical custom of the day, particularly in Sanctus and Benedictus, which the choir would sing while the canon of the Mass was recited silently by the celebrant. The anthem at Communion is Ave verum corpus, also by Mozart. We are delighted that the Choir of Men & Boys of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut will join us to provide the music at Solemn Evensong & Benediction this Sunday. They have sung here many times before, and it is a great pleasure to welcome them, and Mr. Robert Tate, Director of Music, back to Saint Mary’s. They will sing a choral prelude at 4:45, including music of Gabrieli, Allegri, and Rachmaninoff. The Gospel canticles, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, will be the Collegium Regale service of Herbert Howells (1892-1983), which was a ground-breaking work written for the choir of King’s College Cambridge, and the anthem before Benediction is Set me as a seal by William Walton (1902-1983). We hope that many will be present to hear them and to pray the Daily Office with us.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Eileen Sorensen and Fred Ruth are out of the hospital, but continue to be in our prayers . . . The Rector is on vacation through Wednesday, May 8 and will be back for Ascension Day, May 9 . . . The Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James is Wednesday, May 1. As is our custom, we also observe Major Feasts at the Mass on the Eve . . . Attendance last Sunday 250.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION NEWS . . . Father Jay Smith continues his Wednesday evening class entitled “Discovering Baptism in the New Testament.” The fourth and final class will meet at 7:00 PM on May 1 in Saint Benedict's Study and will focus on baptism in such texts as the Letter to the Colossians, the Letter to the Ephesians, and the First Letter of Peter. The class is doing a close reading of a few select passages from the New Testament letters and there is ample time for discussion. All members and friends of Saint Mary's are invited to attend. Latecomers are welcome and should ring the doorbell marked “Saint Benedict's Study” in the vestibule at 145 West 46th Street . . . On May 8, Mr. Junius Johnson, a Ph. D. student in the religious studies department at Yale University, begins “The Eucharist in Christian Thought and Spirituality.” This class will examine some of the basic theological issues at stake in any formulation of the doctrine of the Eucharist, and will then go on to consider and discuss some of the most important ways that Christians throughout the centuries have thought about the Eucharist. The course will conclude with a brief study of the place of Eucharistic spirituality within Christian spirituality generally. The class meets on May 8, May 15, and May 22.
ALTAR FLOWERS . . . Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: May 5, May 19 (Pentecost), May 26 (Trinity) and most Sundays in the summer. The normal contribution for flowers is $100.00. To reserve flowers, please call Barbara Klett at 212-869-5830, extension 13, or email her at email@example.com.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Monday Catherine of Sienna, religious
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Eve of Saint Philip’s and Saint James’s Day (6:00 PM)
Wednesday Saint Philip and Saint James, apostles
Thursday Athanasius, bishop
Friday Easter Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Monnica, mother of Augustine
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.