Notice that if you cuss out your neighbor they will stare lock-eyed, but extend a compliment and the gaze is averted by looking away.

Strange that most people delight in offering gifts, but do the same in return and the sorrowful response is, “You shouldn’t have.”

And when lovers love it is always easier to say, “I love you my dearest” than to hear, “I love you my dearest.”
Think that’s why we are a people who prefer giving to getting.
Psalm 23- The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

How does the shepherd most love the sheep?

Congregational responses:
Protection, always between the sheep and the predator
Clearing the pasture of weed and thistle, leaving only good grass
Leading us to clear and clean waters, the places that nourish us
Anointing the injuries with oil
God doesn’t promise that we won’t have dark valleys but that the shepherd will lead us through.
Left alone I will choose the wrong path, stop following the shepherd who leads me to sobriety.
No sheep is harder to convert than the one convinced he’s the shepherd. If sin is the choice to clutch at God’s staff, then salvation is simply accepting our place in God’s flock.  “The life of faith,” says Jean Vanier, “begins with the recognition that I can’t do it myself… that we have been created to grow weaker,” needier.

How does the shepherd most love the sheep?  By leading us to graze in pastures we did not plant, hoof it down paths we did not cut, eat at tables we did not set, drink from cups we did not fill.  By knowing his rams and ewes by name, by knowing that we are gullible and timid, scared and helpless, the livestock animals that require the most attention because we are creatures created to receive.

Hear the good news, we Christians are a sheepish people, wooly-faced, bandy-legged beasts wandering after the Good Shepherd who lays down his life to free us for joyful and obedient and absolute dependence.  Dependent on the provisions we most desperately want but that only God can graciously provide.

Over one hundred years ago, so the story has been told, a thespian traveled this country doing shows to sold out audiences.  He would perform vaudeville, offer impersonations, command word and rhyme.  For the finale, the thespian would let a long silence linger before reciting the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  And the crowd always reacted the same with cheer and shout, a standing ovation every time.

At one stop on tour, a preacher made his way onto the stage.  Just after the thespian finished his recital, the preacher walked into the spot light and grasped the microphone saying, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; leads beside still waters; he restores my soul…”  Only this time, the crowd stopped applauding, sat down to weep, crying the tears of the Holy Spirit, encountering the God who provides and provides and provides. The thespian, confounded, said to the preacher, “any hack can make the people cheer but only the rare few can make them cry.  How did you do that?”  The preacher responded, “You know the Psalm; I know the Shepherd.”