The Lord is my Shepherd
Over the past two weeks, the focus of our community has been our response to the death of Lewis Cary, and our efforts to support his family and friends, especially the Year 11 cohort. On Saturday, with over 700 people at the service, there was an overwhelming sense of abundant love. There was also a real sense of aching pain.
Do you mind me talking about this? Is it appropriate? Do I ignore this and simply move on to the next busy thing like it hasn’t happened? There is no handbook on these things. The following includes a portion from the homily from Saturday’s memorial service.
I was in the ELC when the first students began, thirteen years ago. I was teaching the perceptual motor program as well as Godly Play. That first cohort, the one Lewis was a part of, gave me the name I treasure to this day: Farmer Richard. I tell stories and scatter seed recklessly. One of those first stories in Godly Play is the Parable of the Sower.
Another is the Parable of the Good Shepherd.
You know how it goes?
The Good Shepherd, the one who knows the sheep and calls them by name and goes on ahead of them and secures green pasture and cool still water and even though you would never wish, there are places of great danger, and the Good Shepherd does not run away but goes through the danger and calls them all by name.
This simple parable functions like a foundational story. And through it comes some simple insights:
We are known.
There is enough of what sustains.
There is a safe place. It is called a fold, but you can’t stay there forever. There is a world and a life beyond which simply has to be explored.
This life, however, it is not limitless. It does have an edge.
This life has danger.
You can get lost.
There are wolves.
There is sacrifice: there are false shepherds and thieves, and in this place, the Good Shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep.
In the midst of the story telling, the students are invited to wonder. And these are the sorts of things they wonder about:
Where do I begin?
And where do I end?
How big is the universe? How far does it go?
If it ends, what is where the universe is not?
If I close my eyes and sleep, where do I go?
And how will I know I will come back?
When Pre-K children grow up, the way stories are told changes, but telling stories doesn’t and the questions remain similar:
What is the danger now? What threatens me most now?
Is there somewhere safe, a place I can be known?
I have to leave this place but how far can I go?
Where is the edge? What is the limit?
To whom do we belong?
Family of course.
But what group?
As our children grow and expand and explore, and claim increasing autonomy, and enter wider circles, we watch. We love. We care deeply. When they return, we literally welcome them into the fold. And love them, no matter what.
And we do all this in the knowledge that God has loved first. And loves without conditions. And even though there is danger and dark places, God walks with us. And we need not be afraid.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. (Psalm 23)