Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sheep in a Meadow by August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck — oil on board, 36 x 57 inches, 1865.

April 30, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Acts 2:42-47 • Psalm 23 • 1 Peter 2:19-25 • John 10:1-10

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Image description: A fine example of the realism of European 18th century Romanticism, a flock of sheep stand atop a green hillside overlooking the ocean with more sheep and a shepherd in the distance. The sky is partly cloudy with darker clouds appearing over the large waves approaching the shore. The sheep in the foreground and a group of lambs at center appear in a brighter patch of sunlight. Surrounding the sheep on either side are thick patches of thistles.

The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying. Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. — Acts 2:42-44

The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always. He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted. — Psalm 23:1-4

When [Christ] was verbally abused, He didn’t return the abuse; when He suffered, He didn’t make threats to cause suffering in return; instead, He trusted that all would be put right by the One who is just when He judges. He took on our sins in His body when He died on the cross so that we, being dead to sin, can live for righteousness. As the Scripture says, “Through His wounds, you were healed.” For there was a time when you were like sheep that wandered from the fold, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your lives. — 1 Peter 2:23-25

So He explained further.
Jesus: I tell you the truth: I am the gate of the sheep. All who approached the sheep before Me came as thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not listen to their voices. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be liberated, will go in and go out, and will find pastures. The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.
— John 10:7-10

Danish-born August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck became one the best European painters of animals during his lifetime. Many of his beautiful works found in museum collections world-wide include sheep, sheep dogs and crows. These works often portray animals exhibiting emotional capacity and expression such as fear, grief, love/affection and curiosity.

What do you imagine is happening in this scene?

What emotions do you sense in the sheep of this painting?

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?

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