Sunday, May 3, 2020

Death, Abhinivesha, and the Good Shepherd

It is Good Shepherd Sunday!  The 4th Sunday after Easter where Jesus introduces the concept of himself as the good shepherd that will protect, so we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) This is foreshadowed in the earlier readings.  In Acts 2 we find the flock growing. In 1Peter 2 we “have returned to the shepherd and guardian of our [your] souls.” These are all great but for me the one reading that stand above all others this Sunday is the 23rd Psalm.  
The 23rd Psalm and I have a long and winding history.  It was a regular reading in chapel when I was in elementary school at Samuel Ready School, I memorized it.  When my Nana was about to enter the surgery that she would ultimately succumb to the last thing she said to me was the 23rd Psalm.  When I visited my father-in-law in hospice for the last time there was a bible in the room that I was drawn to.  I read the 23rd Psalm. It got to a place where I could not read it without filling up with tears.  Then, when my Oma died, I was asked to read the 23rd Psalm at her funeral. I was very new to yoga at this point but even in that newness things were shifting. At the time I did not quite understand what was happening.

I now understand that I was processing through one of the five Kleshas (or afflictions) - Abhinivesha. The other four are avidya (ignorance), asmita (over-identifying with your ego), raga (desire, or attachment to pleasure), and dvesha (avoidance).  But “Abhinivesha is a Sanskrit word meaning “will to live,” referring to the fear of death, even if life is full of misery…Not only is abhinivesha the fear of death, it also includes the incorrect identification of the true self with the temporary physical body or world.”* 

Everyone has experienced, and may still experience, a fear of death.  Certainly in 2020 with a locked down world, people dying daily it is easy to let this fear of death overwhelm us. That is where the good shepherd comes in.  He takes care of us and restores our soul. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, like right now, I fear no evil. Jesus is my good shepherd.  Living my life as one of his flock will get me through these tumultuous times. And if not, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This is my favorite Good Shepherd Anthem: My Shepherd WillSupply My Need

Easter 5 Year A
The Lesson: Acts 2:42-47
Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; * I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures * and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul * and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; * for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; * you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,* and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Epistle: I Peter 2:19-25
It is the credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel: John 10:1-10
Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again, Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”


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