Tony Ingleby reflects further on life's struggles for farming families. |
A new hymn, meditation and readings based on Psalm 23
Lord, my shepherd! My provider!
Metre 8787D. Tune: Alleluia/ Daily daily/ Blaenwern/ Hyfrydol etc
Lord, my shepherd! My provider!
Nothing can I ever need.
Never hungry, never thirsty,
You provide for all but greed.
Yet it seems, if I speak truly,
Grass looks greener out beyond,
And my thirsty soul is fearful;
Troubled waters thunder on.
Signposts clearly point the way, but
Oft I'm close to turning back.
Hard and long your path's appearance,
Not some gentle, rambling track.
Illness, death and pain and sorrow
Lie along the way you tread.
Can you guide me and protect me?
Will I reach the goal ahead?
Then we're gathered all around you,
Fears rebuked and needs supplied.
Enemies see heads anointed,
Thirst and hunger satisfied.
Yes, good, kind and loving shepherd,
You were with me all my days.
Even death won't part me from you,
You provide for me always.
© Tony Ingleby 2003.
The Good Shepherd Reading: Psalm 23. John 10:2-4,11.
Being a shepherd I should be very dear to you, Lord.
There are plenty of shepherds in the bible:
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had flocks.
Moses looked after sheep for his Father-in-law.
King David learned to lead and protect by looking after his Father's flock.
The prophet Amos was a shepherd
and Ezekiel used shepherds as the model for leadership.
'Shepherd' is even used as an metaphor for your care;
You call your people your 'flock',
the Psalmist says, 'The Lord is my shepherd!'
and Jesus said, 'I am the Good Shepherd!'
There's a lot of sense in it all.
Being a shepherd teaches you about care.
It's more than providing fields and food and fences.
It's more than long hours and disturbed nights.
It includes knowing them and being proud of doing the right thing by them.
'Animal welfare' is a very worthy phrase
but 'looking after my sheep' is all of that ... and more.
It's warmer and more gentle somehow, without being sentimental.
But just now it doesn't feel as though that's the way you look after me.
The Lord's my shepherd but it seems that I DO want.
The Good Shepherd has laid down his life for me,
but MY life and livelihood seem to be under threat too.
So why can't you lead us in green pastures?
I hoped against hope that after the storms of Foot and Mouth
there would be still waters of prosperity to drink from,
But even when prices and job satisfaction are high
the wolf of disaster isn't very far from the door,
The future is uncertain and it doesn't take a lot to upset the balance -
a new directive, more restrictions, more paperwork,
bad weather, an infection, a few more lambs dying, a fall off in demand...
The table prepared for family farmers isn't going to fatten us up.
And where oh where are your goodness and mercy for the shepherd
poisoned by the sheep-dip chemicals he was forced to use?
Have you deserted me in the face of economic forces,
like a hireling running away to save his skin?
My dear one, I have not run away.
I am near enough to hear the fear in your cry.
I didn't allow the name 'shepherd' to be used lightly about me.
In bible times a shepherd had to contend with great hardship and danger;
Wild animals and robbers, drought and shortage of pasture
were some of the enemies.
And a good shepherd never deserted his flock;
he did whatever he could to keep the flock together,
calling, watching and searching by day,
sleeping across the entrance to the fold at night.
He was the watchman, the security officer, the vet, the transport ....
He cared for every need.
And for this he received no honour.
Society treated him as a rogue.
So I am called the Good Shepherd.
And my sheep can't expect to walk in smoother paths than I have walked.
I will go with you through every dark valley,
illness, loss, pain, disappointment, poverty, mockery, even death.
I know my way through them all;
I've been there before and come through.
I can offer you that hope.
When you lose sight of me I can tap my staff on the ground
so that you know I'm still there.
But I don't pretend that I am going to just lift you out of the valley.
I'm not a lottery ticket or a happy pill.
I'm the Good Shepherd.
I know you, I hear you, I care for you and I am with you
You have chosen a demanding way of life
and you live in a demanding society,
demanding but disconnected:
A consumer society, consuming product and producer,
consuming past, present and future,
consuming the countryside and those who live and work there,
greedily consuming itself as it strays from my paths and pastures.
But I am the Good Shepherd, yesterday, today and forever,
and I will seek to save all but myself.
And that 'all' includes you, my dear one.
You are permitted to copy this for use in your service.
Please acknowledge '© Rev'd Tony Ingleby 2003'
as the author of both the hymn and the meditation.
Rogation hymn with alternatives for Plough Sunday and other seasons
Plough Sunday Hymn
Lammas Sunday Service