The Need for Shepherding

The Need for Shepherding


Rev. Marilyn Wilcox joyfully serves as pastor of the United Church of Clinton, MA, is partnered with her husband Michael, has four grown children (Jess, Jared, Nate, and Dustin), enjoys creating mandalas, has been known as a Star Trek fan, and has a cat named Iris.

Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38  (NRSV)

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to the disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.


Reflection: The Need for Shepherding 




In this text we hear of Jesus’ charge to spread the news of God’s kingdom. But “What is the Kingdom of God?”

As I write this article, I am preparing a couple Confirmands for their Confirmation Sunday on June 4.  As the mentors of the class and I describe it to the young people, God’s kingdom is not made of kings and queens, but God’s collective people working together to bring about things full of the Spirit. This quest is an endeavor to bring about peace, and justice in a much-needed world. We’ve then gone into the concept of God’s kin-dom; kingdom without the “g.” We’ve looked at the feeling of association and family and fellowship. The idea of a peaceable kin-dom came up and the whole notion that it is of us and through us that the Spirit reaches out and extends love and care. To establish a “reign” here probably goes against the grain. What about the word transformation to be used instead? 

Here, in the beginning of the passage for Sunday, is the call to spread the word of God’s kin-dom. Jesus summoned his disciples. Twelve specifically are named, although in our hearts we know there were more than that, including other siblings, serving God. The charge is on to be shepherds to the sheep who are harassed and helpless. The call is to move onward to spread the good news. “Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy.” And who exactly are the “worthy”? Some would say, “all.” Some would say, “those who listen and respond.” And people do not always respond, do they? We are being sent out “like sheep into the midst of wolves.” So is the case with ministry.  If we are honest, do not us minister-types feel cast out into the wolves? Perhaps not always, but sometimes we do. We are sometimes embraced, but other times not so much. Thank God for moments when we break through and get the message of God’s kin-dom through!

And what do we do about the part of sheep going without a shepherd? The sheep can be at a loss -- scattering in all directions with no clear sense of direction. I remember a time in my life, long ago, when I was a drum major for a marching band. Relying on cues that involved motion and verbal commands I was able to keep the unit working as a whole. As a result, the band played and moved in directions that made sense. This holds true for ministry. Without leaders (both clergy and lay) we flounder and cannot find our way. We need to get our bearings straight and find a way toward movement and progression with as much unity as we can muster. We need a caring presence to watch out for our well-being both in our personal lives and in our church communities. We need to shepherd folks to bring harmony and vision into lives. Shepherds are the ones who provide care and safety, in addition to guidance. Can we be the shepherds who provide all that for both friends and strangers? Can we turn to those in our flocks and those apart from it and provide tender care?

Going back to my mention of my Confirmation class and its progress. The book we used this year was “New Directions for Holy Questions” by Brown and Peebles. This past year together brought up many questions about our faith and church and beyond. Some questions are a work in progress. It is my hope that our Confirmands continue to lift up questions of faith during their adult lives and that they work with those questions.

May we, as Jesus’ modern day disciples, continue to ask questions and provide transformation through our ministries.


Prayer: Guide us, shape us, and lead us, O God, that we may transform lives around us. Amen

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war, as well as the many landscapes that are currently embroiled in conflicts
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~18,500 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the year
  • For  the members of the First Congregational Church in Spencer, which suffered a devastating fire. 
  • For the friends and family of The Rev. Robert L. Morgan who passed away on June 1, 2023.  After serving churches in Ohio and as a United States Army Chaplain in Korea, Bob served as a chaplain at Yale New Haven Hospital for 28 years, retiring as the Director of the Spiritual Care Department. 

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

This Week in History:

June 16, 1858 (165 years ago): Abraham Lincoln warns that America is becoming a “house divided” and that the nation faces a crisis that could destroy the Union. [History


“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Marilyn Wilcox

Rev. Marilyn Wilcox joyfully serves as pastor of the United Church of Clinton, MA, is partnered with her husband Michael, has four grown children (Jess, Jared, Nate, and Dustin), enjoys creating mandalas, has been known as a Star Trek fan, and has a ...

June 12, 2023
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