Good Shepherd Sunday

I maintain that those of us who are spiritually fed by liturgical worship traditions – namely Roman Catholics, Episcopalians/Anglicans, and Lutherans – prefer worship when things do not change.

The magic words in church life are, “But we’ve always done it that way.”

Likewise, the Jewish and Eastern Orthodox traditions are also wonderfully constant in style of worship. I loved my years as a temple organist.

At the risk of repeating myself in this blog, each Sunday in our liturgical year has a proper name: The Second Sunday after Easter, The Third Sunday after Easter, and so on. Our reference to the “propers” of the day comes the proper names of each Sunday.

Some Sundays have a secondary part of their title, such as The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Christ; The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday; The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day; and others.

And some Sundays even have nicknames: “All Saints’ Sunday,” “Ascension Sunday,” “Thomas Sunday.”

Because of its Gospel reading each year, the Fourth Sunday after Easter is nicknamed “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

This Sunday, which is Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary, we will hear one of Jesus’ numerous references to the shepherd and the sheep; this instance includes the metaphor of the shepherd as gatekeeper. “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice.” (John 10:3)

Year B’s Gospel reading is perhaps the most familiar: “Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’.” (John 10:11)

Year C’s Gospel reading repeats the theme of hearing the shepherd’s voice. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Each lectionary year, Psalm 23 is the appointed psalm for the day. Not a surprise.

This Sunday’s solo, sung by mezzo-soprano Nicolette Hatchett, is one of the distinctive choral and solo setting of the 23rd Psalm. English composer Gordon Jacob (1894-1984) arranged “Brother James’ Air” with the text of Psalm 23 and published it in 1934.

The hymn tune was originally composed by Scottish composer and author James Leith Macbeth Bain (1860-1925). Raised in a devoutly Christian home, he later became a spiritualist minister and was known by his peers as Brother James.

While many contemporary hymnals still contain “Brother James’ Air” paired with its original Psalm 23 text, Hymn 517 in our hymnal, The Hymnal 1982, is set to a paraphrase of Psalm 84, “How lovely is thy dwelling place.”

Photo Credit:, Jeremy Doorten, photographer.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Apr 29, 2020