27 April 2009

To Be a Shepherd of the Sheep

This week is uniquely focused on the Good Shepherd, spanning, as it does, "Good Shepherd Sunday" in the historic lectionary (yesterday) and in the three-year lectionary (next Sunday). It is from the great Good Shepherd of us all that we pastors (shepherds) not only know how to care for His flock, but also are equipped and enabled to do so in His Name and stead, with His good gifts and blessings.

Although we follow the three-year lectionary at Emmaus, there was a nod to the historic "Good Shepherd" emphasis of this past Sunday in some of the hymnody. That included the hymn of invocation, "Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit" (LSB 681). Anyone who reads this blog knows that the hymns are selected well in advance, on the basis of multiple criteria and considerations. So I was all the more struck by how well this hymn coincided with discussions of the past few days.

It is a marvelous hymn, in any case. I am always both humbled and encouraged by such a prayer of the congregation for me as their pastor, their shepherd in Christ Jesus under Him. In particular, I am strengthened in my vocation as a minister of the Gospel to hear such a confession (for that, too, is what the hymns and prayers of the Church are), that I am chiefly given to teach and feed the little lambs and sheep, to catechize and care for them with the Word of Christ and with His life-giving Bread, which is Meat and Drink indeed for body and soul.

Here is how the hymn confesses it and prays for such good and gracious will of God to be done among us also:

Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit
On Your servant now, we pray;
Let him prove a faithful shepherd
That no lamb be led astray.
Your pure teaching to proclaim,
To extol Your holy name,
And to feed Your lambs, dear Savior,
Make his aim and sole endeavor.

You, O Lord, Yourself have called him
For Your precious lambs to care;
But to prosper in his calling,
He the Spirit's gifts must share.
Give him wisdom from above,
Fill his heart with holy love;
In his weakness, Lord, be near him,
In his prayers, Good Shepherd, hear him.

Help, Lord Jesus, help him nourish
All our children with Your Word
That in fervent love they serve You
Till in heaven their song is heard.
Boundless blessings, Lord, bestow
On his faithful toil below
Till by grace to him be given
His reward, the crown of heaven.

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