Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Good Shepherd and Brahmacharya – Non-Excess

Last year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter I began a conversation about the Good Shepherd.  This conversation continues this year and every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter which is always Good Shepherd Sunday:

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; * I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures * and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul * and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4 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.
5 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.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, * and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

I John 3:16-24

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

John 10:11-19

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”


Shepherds were often thought to be a metaphor for God or King.  But not a King of oppression. Instead, a king of love and liberty. “Jesus is talking about wise kingship, caring kingship, a king that looks like an ordinary shepherd and how that king goes about his work.” -Fr. John Herring

But if we extend this idea a little bit more then perhaps we all are called to love one another and that liberty is served for the entire earthly family. As stated in 1John, “How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”  There is a vast inequity in our economic system that leaves many with nothing and a few with much more than they could ever need. Taking care of a brother or sister in need is the job of all of us, it is our duty to follow the example of the Good Shepherd. This is the yoga Yama (restraint) of Brahmacharya or Non-excess. Deborah Adele writes, “Why do we move past the place of enough into excess? Yogic thought tells us it is because our mind begins to connect certain foods or activities. There is a difference between say the body’s need to satisfy thirst and the extravagant things the mind does with this simple desire. A desire that could easily be fulfilled with a glass of water somehow, in our mind’s convoluted way, gets hooked up with memories and conditioning tied to emotional satisfaction or emotional disturbance.” We all struggle with non-excess, we all have our addictions: from the very rich to the addict to the homeless to the abuser and everyone else. We all could strive to do better.  By the grace of the Good Shepherd, I continue to try.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. -BCP


Fr. John Herring Sermon 4/25/21

BCP – Book of Common Prayer

Adele, D. – The Yamas and Niyamas – Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice

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