Fourth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 23, John 10

Lectionary Text for the Fourth Sunday of Easter:

Psalm 23: A Psalm of David.
1The 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.

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

5You prepare a table before me
     in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
     my cup overflows.
6Surely 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.

John 10:22-30: “At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ 25 Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

Fourth Sunday of Easter Comment:
As I read Psalm 23 the word fear in verse 4 leaped at me. So I decided to investigate the area of emotion, of which fear is one. I went on line and “googled” emotion in the search engine. I thought reading an article from the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy was a safe place to find some useful information. Well, I was offered a 25 page article, including a 4 page Bibliography on the topic. I was not surprised to find that the subject of emotions has been on the minds of many, at least in Western thought (and probably in Eastern thought) from antiquity. However, from the third century BC writings of Aristotle and Plato to the twentieth-century AD philosophers a concrete definition of the nature and source of emotion/emotions alludes them all. These ‘thinkers’ present us with theories with impressive names such as ‘Feeling Theories’ and Cognitivist and Perceptual Theories. Are there a few basic emotions (like primary colors) from which all other emotions are combinations? Are emotions the product of physical function—do stress hormones produce emotion or do emotions cause stress hormone production? What part of our intellect is involved in our emotions or do we have little or no choice in emotional expression? How do our past experiences, remembered or not, effect emotional response in a given situation? Explain why someone has a fear of flying when flying in an airplane is one of the safest modes of transportation.

I found another article written in 1987 by Dr. Gregory S. Clapper (assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Westmar College in Le Mars, Iowa). Dr. Clapper references to a work written by Don E. Saliers, a professor of theology who “focuses on four basic Christian affections: gratitude…which is not obsequiousness (flattery) but a willing and happy dependence upon another; holy fear and repentance, which is not terror, but respect and humility, and grief over one’s sins; joy, which exists even in the midst of suffering; and love, from which spring all the Christian affections. These emotions or affections are not merely feeling states but also function as dispositions (moral fiber) to treat our neighbor as ourselves and God as our creator and redeemer.”

Fear, from a physio-psychologico-behavioral (I made up word to save space) perspective is necessary for us as humans to evaluate potential danger and to respond appropriately. However, fear has no place in Christian emotions. Fear is associated with death and Easter is the season, which celebrates and commemorates the defeat of death, hell and the grave. I’ve mentioned this before and I will repeat that when Jesus rose from the dead an eternal principle was established: Life is more powerful that death.

The shepherd David sang with the emotion of joy, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” Jesus the Good Shepherd promises, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Insert your name in place of them. What emotions stir in your heart? Perhaps you feel gratitude and humility. Perhaps you feel a deeper love for God the author and finisher of our faith and emotions.

Easter Season Blessings,

Rev. Julia,
© April 23, 2010

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