Reflection for the Morning Prayer

Julian Whittney

We do not usually have a psalm reading at Morning Prayer but today’s appointed psalm seems very appropriate, so if I may;

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Shaun the Sheep is a very popular TV character in England. He originally appeared in 1995 and the silent animation series was first aired in the UK on March the fifth 2007 and has since been broadcast in over 180 countries. When I say silent movie, it isn’ actually silent but the language is Sheep, Dog, and human mumbling so can be understood by speakers of any language.

ひつじのショーン is still popular in Japan. He is very cute and unlike the stereotypical sheep, he is very intelligent and also very funny.

I say stereotypical meaning that the common image of sheep is a rather unintelligent animal, in need of a leader. Sheep need a shepherd and a sheep-dog.

Sheep are also a very common metaphor, a very common image in The Bible. Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than 500 times, more than any other animal. Sheep were important to the nomads and agricultural life of the Hebrews and similar peoples.

On April the first, Israel attacked the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria, killing three generals and four other officers. It was reported to be the most ‘successful’ [sic] Israeli attack on senior Iranian officials involved in Iran’s nuclear (weapon) programme.

On April the thirteenth Iran and its allies attacked Israel with 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles. Britain, France, Jordan and the United States came to the assistance of Israel and it is reported that there were no fatalities, no deaths, only one injury.

On Friday (April 19th) an Israeli missile hit the Isfahan region of Iran. There have been no reports of casualties.

At least 30,631 Palestinians have died since Israel’s military offensive on Gaza since October the seventh, two thousand and twenty-three. Or should I say Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip on Octobers the twenty-seventh, twenty twenty-three? Even the dates are hard to decide when trying to understand the horror of this most recent middle-eastern conflict.

Our world certainly needs a good shepherd right now. We need someone that we can trust to lead us, as a congregation, as a nation and all around the world. These are dangerous days. To some, the war in Gaza, and the missile attacks in the middle-east seem distant. The violence in distant lands seems remote from the safe shores of Japan that we know and love but how many cameras surround us in shops? How many cameras are there in train and bus stations? The threat of terrorism is used to justify this surveillance on such a massive scale. The threat of terrorism to many, if not most people became palpable, something that everyone feels, after September the eleventh, two thousand and one when four coordinated attacks on the United States of America were carried out by Al-Qaeda. But on March the twentieth, nineteen ninety-five, 14 people died and a further 1,050 were injured by a Sarin gas attack in Tokyo, carried out by the cult Aum Shinrikyo. That is a lot closer to home.

We have survived the pandemic caused by the Corona Virus. We are no longer locked down as we were four years ago. We are here gathered together in Jesus’ name as a congregation. We are able to worship together to thank God for all the blessings that we enjoy. We are careful. We wear masks and disinfect our hands. This is necessary as people are still dyeing as a result of the Omicron variant of SARS CoViD-19. But we are able to flock, albeit a small flock, together like sheep. Our good shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ leads us to greener pastures, となりのしばふは あおい ? Maybe?

Perhaps is seems strange, unusual, to some that we aspire, we want to be like sheep. But Shaun the sheep is loved by all of the young learners at my wife’s and my school. If it is good enough for those lovely children, then it’s good enough for me and (dare I suggest?) It’s good enough for us!

Thanks be to God.