By Rev. M. S. Desmond for the Congregational Church of Brookfield, U.C.C. on March 26, 2006 in the 50th Anniversary Year of his Ordination to Christian Ministry in 1956.

Golden Jubilee of Ordained Ministry

Luke 15: 1-7 (TEV)(GNB)
Isaiah 40:9-11 


It is an awesome privilege to return to this pulpit in this trek across the 50 years of my ordained ministry. I am overjoyed to begin the trip here in Brookfield today, with you. Four more congregations to visit! Newington, N.H., Danbury, CT, Plymouth, Second Church, MA, and Verona, N. J. It is a selfish, foolish, self indulgent plan... and I thank your pastors, your Deacons, and others who have extended the welcome mat to me. 

It is good to be with you. One pastor on hearing of my odd plan to visit the parishes in which I served as settled pastor dubbed it my "Grand Tour". (Rev. Laura Westby, Danbury, 1st.) My own vision was to mark this 50th year since my Ordination in November of 1956 in some memorable way... that I would not forget, soon. I had never heard of such a thing, but approached the current pastors in the involved churches with the idea, calling it my way of celebrating my "Golden Jubilee Year" of Ordained Ministry with our churches of the Reformation tradition. The response was encouraging, and so today we are launching the Expedition: A Pastor returns to the sites of his shepherding. 

I am calling this my "Year of the Lamb" Not for the Chinese Numbering of years by animals... but because of the lambness of a pastor's experience. The term Pastor carries about it a rural agricultural image... and shepherding is what pastoring is about. When Angie Jeffers - a News Times Reporter covering Brookfield - asked me what I treasured most about my 50 years in Ordained Ministry, I almost mentioned preaching... Spreading the Good News, for that is certainly high on the list. But Nancy reminded me that I had often rejoiced... and still do, in the welcome I have received as pastor into the lives and homes and hearts of our congregation's families. In Good times and in tough sledding, In joys and in sorrows, in achievements and in disappointment, the pastors are welcomed into the lives of their church family. The emotional ties are strong and deep, and the Pastoring image of the Shepherd and sheep seem to contain much food for thought in today's visit. 

However, as I prepared to speak with you this morning, I was struck by the major hallmark of these 50 years of ministry that made it possible, year in and year out...... And that is the driving empowering Spirit of the Almighty making sufficient the insufficient. I was driven to choose ministry and kept to the task by the shepherding of the Great, Good Shepherd. It is the keen recognition of God's shepherding of my ministry, through all the years that makes this the Year of the Lamb for me. This Lamb returns to you to celebrate the lamb-ness of our living... and our dependence upon the shepherding of our God in Jesus our Lord. The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. Because of this shepherding God, we sheep may safely graze! And you heard the Scripture lesson Audrey Himbaugh read today. More sheep and shepherds. I. GOD AS SHEPHERD A. Lambs and Lambness are heavy topics in the Bible. Biblical Scholars of note, who count, have found over 500 references to sheep, shepherds, and shepherding in the Bible.

Among those 500 plus references, there are over 80 which refer to God as the Good Shepherd. 


In the parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke which we read today, we find another image of God as the good Shepherd. We call the Parable "The Lost Sheep" although the main character is the shepherd who cares enough about every single one of his 100 sheep to leave the 99 and set out on the search until he finds the stray. When I was younger and wiser I used to fret about the effect this Parable would have upon churchgoers... with its emphasis on the one lost sheep. It seemed that the parable favored the wayward lamb over the faithful and dutiful sheep that followed the shepherd to the protection of the sheepfold. I even preached a sermon on the subject: "What of the 90 and 9?"

It was only later that I discovered that all of us are lost or have been. Call it wayward or outcast, or lost, we know the lostness of abandonment, failure, and wandering from the way we should go. Even the most disciplined and faithful of us have known what it means to be a stray.  No wonder we love this image of the Shepherd who is a good one. He steps through church windows around the world has he is memorialized in the stained glass art of the ages. The good shepherd... seeks the lost until it is found... and when it is found he carries it back to the 90 and 9 and to safety.

For the shepherd left the 99 and searched for the Lost Lamb UNTIL IT WAS FOUND! God is like that. The God who creates in a word, who calls forth the earth and the planets by a command comes to us in the search...calling us home in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Like a Good Shepherd... We are safe in the searching love of our God, who is our Shepherd. That's where the power of this parable is. For those of us who have known "Lostness"...the Great Shepherd of Sheep is the Finder of Lost Sheep.

The magnificent passage from Isaiah 40 which we heard today compares God with the Good Shepherd who will gather the flock (the people of Israel) and carry the lambs in his arms. This is an image of caring and strength. This is an image of hope and future. God as the Good Shepherd is an image to treasure and savor. You can believe Isaiah. Isaiah gave expression to the expectation and hope: God will not leave us helpless. Look to God. God will comfort the people. God will come to us as a shepherd comes to the sheep. 


Certainly humankind today has many needs, fears, and failures. Threats surround life in the earth colony. There are hazards at every turn... How do you see the thorn bushes and ravines that pose a threat to the earth people? (Collect them from the crowd.) Hatred, Distrust, Warfare, Greed, Economic Injustice, Haves and Have-nots, Religious intolerance, Ignorance, Me First-ism, We abound in Threats on our planet earth.

Isaiah gives us a poem which lifts up the answer of the great shepherd to our plight as earth sheep: 

Behold the Lord God comes with might

  • Our God will feed his flock like a shepherd.
  • Our God will gather the lambs in his arms, [he will carry them in his bosom.]
  • Our God will gently lead the mother sheep.

-- Isaiah 40:11 2

[Divide the congregation and say the poem in parts...] 

Group 1: He will feed his flock like a shepherd. 
Group 2: He will gather the lambs in his arms. 
Group 3: Our God will gently lead the mother sheep. 

In the first line, He will feed his flock like a shepherd. Isaiah sees the shepherd meeting the hungers of the flock. That was then, and this is now. In our hearts today we are pained by the hunger that stalks the world today... and in the news each week we discover the hungry in our own neighborhoods. Food pantries cry for donations and the hungry individuals and families in our neighborhoods line up for a bite to eat. Our gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing are among the most generous of our offerings to special needs through the whole year. We are moved at the plight of the hungry and starving... be they children or adults. Hunger to the point of starvation, as well as slow death by malnutrition stalk the planet. Be they on our doorsteps or out of sight. Our hearts and our pocketbooks are open to the hungry. Hunger spreads beyond the mere "food enough" to feed the people. It includes the hungers that go beyond the physical food and drink that keep the body alive. There are the hungers for purpose, for productive labor, for meaning in the living of our days. All these the shepherd provides in the vision of Isaiah: 

[Call on Group 1] He will feed his flock like a shepherd. 

In answer to the human prayer: "Give us this day, our daily bread." the prophet presents God as the good shepherd of the flock:

[Call on Group 1] He will feed his flock like a shepherd. 

Our list of snares and brambles that endanger us as we would "safely graze" includes more than the need for food for the day. There is war. There is fear. There is aloneness. The peoples of our earth colony are separated from one another... nations arm against nations, distrust, hostility, and aggression join oppression, violence, and pure hatred in separating peoples one from another. Prejudice and bigotry express themselves in inhumanity within the human family. We are alone. We feel lonely, lost, and abandoned. The paranoia of distrust person against person divides and separates the human family both from one another and from our God. Into the vacant landscape of the human scene Isaiah projects the Good Shepherd... who comes seeking the lost and wayward sheep.

[Call on group 2] He will gather the lambs in his arms. 

The shepherd gathers the flock in his arms restores the lost to the flock, and creates community and trust within the family. This gathering in harmony and trust is explicitly depicted in the forgiveness phrase in Our Lord's Prayer: Forgive us our debts... trespasses... sins... offenses... Forgive us, as we forgive others. The people of God are a community of covenant and trust in God and in one another. In a more subtle way, the Lord's Prayer joins us with others by the use of the plural pronoun. It is explicitly a prayer for humankind... the whole lot of us, not just me, or you, or someone better or worse than us. OUR Father. Forgive US . Give US . The very action of God in Jesus gathers us into one common flock. Joins us in one community of humanity on earth. 

[Call on group 2] He will gather the lambs in his arms.

Close to the bosom of the shepherd, the lone lamb feels the warmth of the shepherd's body, is comforted by the steady thump a thump of the shepherd's heartbeat, and feels the caress of the shepherd's hands on his soft wool. There is safety, comfort, and shalom in the care of the shepherd. 

[Call on group 2] He will gather the lambs in his arms.

The shepherd is promised for the needs of humanity. In thinking of the needs of humanity, we note our own confusion of values and the perplexity we feel when faced with a multitude of moral and ethical choices. We are tempted on every side. Even when we would "do the right thing"... we are not sure what that is. We pray with sincerity "Lead us ... Lord, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Lead us Lord. Out of darkness into the light of your power and will. Lead us Lord. Lead us in your service, in more productive lives, Lead us in the way you would have us Go.

[Call on group 3] Our God will gently lead the mother sheep.


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

[Call on group 1] Our God will feed his flock like a shepherd.
[Call on group 2] Our God will gather the lambs in his arms.
[Call on group 3] Our God will gently lead the mother sheep.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.