In these Easter weeks the Church of England tries to recall the way the earliest Christians lived their new faith. Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2: 42-47) offers an insight. It describes the spiritual life of the new Christian community, rooted in ‘the breaking of bread and the prayers’ – the Eucharist – and expressed in practical care. They ‘had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.’ Now that sounds like a proper community!
But the other theme for today, Easter 4, is the Good Shepherd. Psalm 23 leads us towards the Gospel passage with its opening line ’the Lord is my shepherd’. And in the Gospel itself (John 10) Jesus describes himself as ‘the Good Shepherd’ and as the ‘gate’ to the sheepfold. I can still remember hearing this Gospel passage for the first time, read in a primary school assembly in the early 1950s - in the Authorised version, of course! Those words of Jesus seemed to my boyhood self to be so rich, so reassuring. This ‘Good Shepherd’ must surely be someone it must be good to have as friend and protector, as guide and mentor. And so it has been. No wonder Psalm 23 remains so popular; no wonder John10 is one of the best-known passages in the New Testament.