Reading Time: 5 mins

Old Testament: Psalm 23 (Easter 4: Series B)

Reading Time: 5 mins

All the flock rejects this lamb, except the shepherd. A good shepherd, when they see this happening, takes the little lamb from the flock and holds it in their arms.

The dilemma in Eastertide for preacher’s hoping to use the Old Testament pericope is that there is of course NO Old Testament pericope. So, I suppose this could be the untimely end for this homiletical help! However, rather than capitulate and claim some hidden Machiavellian Pseudo-Marcionite motive behind the lectionary, we shall soldier on and see what we can do with this preaching challenge. Each week we are in Eastertide, the goal will be to preach the appointed Psalm of the day. This will keep us on track for the Old Testament and it will also help us exercise our homiletical skill on an all too often underrepresented category of preaching: Preaching Christ from the Psalms.

Those of us who live by the rhythm of the Church Year are well acquainted with a little thematic break we have right in the middle of the Easter season. It is called “Good Shepherd” Sunday, which derives its name from the obvious theme of the Gospel, Epistle, and appointed Psalm of the day in the three-year lectionary. Since it is “meet, right, and salutary” for us to take this thematic break, we will also use it as our focus for the Psalm series and give our attention to Psalm 23.

Playing off the absolute familiarity of the text, we will use an “Imagistic Structure” to highlight the dynamic between the familiar and the unfamiliar in our text and from the image we have chosen for this sermon.

We return once again to the “Central Image Structure.” In this sermon configuration we are going to use a single image throughout which is used to foster devotional contemplation of Christ as our Good Shepherd.

Using a classic work of ecclesiastical art like “The Good Shepherd Stained Glass Window,” we begin the sermon by describing the image for the hearers. From this image we mine Psalm 23 as a source for continuing devotional contemplation throughout the sermon together with the image:

“The image serves as a lens through which one views the textual exposition, the theological confession, the evangelical proclamation, and the hearer interpretation of the sermon. Having a single image lends coherence to the sermon.”[1]

As done previously, we will use a single focus rather than a multiple focus for this sermon. With a single focus the image remains the same throughout the sermon. Our single focus will be on the image of the “bummer lamb” which is central and unchanging to the devotional contemplation. From this single focus, the sermon can reinforce one theme in a first encounter with the image which will establish the Gospel emphasis and then, as the image is applied again and again in the sermon, it locates that theme in relation to the text and then, later, in relation to the hearers.

By focusing on one part of the image (the bummer lamb), which remains in the fore of the minds of the hearers, a fresh approach is then created for the listeners through the art on display. As the preacher:

“(You are) changing how the image is seen, and the hearers are able to track the basic development of a larger theme in the sermon. Each stage of development (for example, moving from a misconception to a clearer vision, moving from application in terms of one’s relationship to God to application in terms of one’s relationship to others) is captured by preaching the image through a different perspective.”[2]

In order to set up what we are going to do with Psalm 23 along with our image of the Good Shepherd, I want to begin by talking about a phenomenon in shepherding that you may or may not be aware of. It is the phenomenon in a flock of sheep called the “bummer lamb.” This is how you can recognize the phenomenon. When a lamb is born, sometimes it happens that the newborn lamb is rejected by its mother. She does not allow it to feed. She attempts to smother it. She shoulders it into the fence to drive it away and, worse, she may even sometimes kick it to try and cause it to die. Bummer... I know. All the flock rejects this lamb, except the shepherd. A good shepherd, when they see this happening, takes the little lamb from the flock and holds it in their arms. He feeds it from his hand and lets it sleep on his chest. Now, the lamb is no longer a “bummer lamb,” it has become the “shepherds lamb.” In fact, later on when the lamb is strong enough to be re-introduced to the flock, whenever the shepherd comes to lead the flock, the first sheep to greet him is the “Shepherd’s Lamb.” The reason is because that specific sheep along with all the rest know his voice, know his words, and know his care (refer to these connections with John 10:5 and 10:27). If you think this is wild, there are numerous articles online about the phenomenon. One rancher explains the amount of care that goes into taking care of the bummer lamb:

“Bummer lambs create a lot of work for time-pressed farmers with larger flocks and acreage to tend to. They need this care because bummer lambs do not always make it. Bummer lambs are often weak because they have a problem that will prevent them from thriving. Lambs can have birth defects which are impossible to see. Often, sheep do not show any symptoms of a problem until it is too late to deal with it.”[3]

At this point, look at the iconic stained-glass window of the Good Shepherd.

CUI Good Shepherd[4]

What does He have in His arms? The bummer lamb! It has been there the whole time. Are we not like the bummer lamb, born with the fatal curse of original sin (Psalm 51:5) that prevents us from being accepted by God and others around us (Romans 6:23; 7:19-25)? But before it was too late, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came and took us in His arms (Romans 5:8-10) and commited to taking the time to save us. It was six hours one Friday, after thirty three years on earth, a plan made in time for eternity since our fall all the way back in the Garden of Eden. But more than that! There is also one glorious resurrection day to lead this flock called the Church “through the valley of the shadow of death” to eternal life in His Kingdom forever. Listen to Psalm 23 through the lens of the “bummer lamb.” Look at this window into God’s grace even as you look at this work of art made from stained glass.

PSALM 23 – A Psalm of David

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

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

Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue[5] me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

As a preacher, when you listen to this psalm now through this single central image, think of how each verse connects to the theme of the “bummer lamb.” Anticipate how your hearers can see Psalm 23 anew because of this new understanding. Press into the art of the window as the sun shines through it to illuminate and ignite our devotional contemplation on this text of Scripture centered in the Gospel action of our resurrected savior Jesus. Create connections to the other readings from 1 Peter 2:19–25, John 10:1–10, or even Ezekiel 34:11-16.

Craft a hearing of the experience of the “bummer lamb” through the art of the classic stained-glass window centered in the words of our text from Psalm 23 which will grant a new hearing to a familiar text that will magnify the Gospel in your proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the benefit of our hearers faith and/or life.


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on Psalm 23.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Psalm 23.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Psalm 23.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!



[2] Ibid.



[5] My translation of רָדַף (radaph)