This week we will celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, when we recall one of the great “I am” statements of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-12).
The other text most powerfully associated with this theme is of course Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Recently I read the thought from a Lutheran pastor that Jesus prayed Psalm 22 so that we could pray Psalm 23. We read Psalm 22 on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, with its cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
With those other words still fresh in our memories, Psalm 23 becomes even more meaningful. We will sing several settings of the text throughout the service; the first is the metrical paraphrase “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” to the beautiful Irish tune St. Columba. During the Liturgy of the Word, we will sing the psalm text to an Anglican chant by Bobby McFerrin (yes, THAT Bobby McFerrin). It is taken from a version he recorded with a text that he altered to be a tribute to his mother. While we will be singing the familiar King James text, it is thought-provoking to consider the people in our lives who model the shepherding and sacrificial example of Christ.
The last version of the text we will hear is an anthem setting by John Rutter, composed in 1978 as a standalone piece and later incorporated in his often-performed Requiem. The pastoral atmosphere of the work and memorable tunes always make this a listening favorite!