The Good Shepherd: a new sonnet

an early depiction of Christ the Good shepherd from a mosaic in Ravenna

an early depiction of Christ the Good shepherd from a mosaic in Ravenna

This Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Gospel set in the Lectionary is John 10:22-30, which contains Jesus’ beautiful saying ‘My sheep hear my voice and I know they follow me, I give them eternal life and they will never perish’. These verses are in fact a continuation of verses earlier in chapter 10, in which Jesus develops the image of shepherd, and declares, in one of the seven great ‘I Am’ sayings in John, ‘I Am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep’.

Reflecting on these linked verses, prompts me to post another poem from the ‘I Am’ sequence in my forthcoming book Parable and Paradox. When I came to write this poem, I found that what came out was a cry of pain, a lament. Jesus’ picture of The Good Shepherd suddenly brought out, by sheer contrast, the dreadful images and memories of all the bad shepherding, the abuses of clerical power for sexual and other purposes of which we have all become belatedly aware and which has done so much not only to hurt all the individual victims but to cast a shadow for many people over the church as an institution and even over the gospel itself. Though the gospel in all its love and freedom is just the opposite of all that clerical abuse. But the cry of pain which forms the first half of my sonnet turns to prayer, and to a return to the true essence and understanding of the word ‘pastor’ in Jesus’ promise to be our shepherd, that Christ himself will in the end rescue and heal all those who have suffered, and especially perhaps those who have suffered at the hands of false shepherds.

(Parable and Paradox is available to order on Amazon here and in the USA and will be available from May 30th

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button)

I Am the Good Shepherd


John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 


When so much shepherding has gone so wrong,

So many pastors hopelessly astray,

The weak so often preyed on by the strong,

So many bruised and broken on the way,

The very name of shepherd seems besmeared,

The fold and flock themselves are torn in half,

The lambs we left to face all we have feared

Are caught between the wasters and the wolf.


Good Shepherd now your flock has need of you,

One finds the fold and ninety-nine are lost

Out in the darkness and the icy dew,

And no one knows how long this night will last.

Restore us; call us back to you by name,

And by your life laid down, redeem our shame.


Filed under christianity, Poems

14 responses to “The Good Shepherd: a new sonnet

  1. Pat Conneen

    Moved to tears, Malcolm. May this poem be the cry of the church.

  2. Bren

    I recently woke up and read this poem as preparation for devotional time. I have the Church and those who have suffered and gone astray. We must redeem the time for our good Shepherd to come and reign for eternity.

  3. Barry long

    Thank you for the blessing of these words. I am a pastor and I resonate with all the words.

  4. Cecilia Gryde

    The only way to speak this so beautifully is to have known it. Can we thank God for having experienced it so we can speak it into another’s suffering? Sometimes hard to do. Thank you.

  5. Such a needful word in a masterfully executed sonnet. Thank you, Malcolm. Your poem will speak to many. Bless you.

  6. Reblogged this on Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    Oh wow! What a powerful reflection, Malcolm!

  7. Thank you, Malcolm. Well written and powerful.

  8. So many are willing to point in seemingly promise filled directions, but not to the Good Shepherd, Christ Jesus, Himself. May His people hear His voice.
    This sonnet has the heart of prayer.

  9. Pingback: Easter Tides -Sunday 17th April 2016 | twiff13

  10. Pingback: Spiritual Growth and Abuse: A Cautionary Tale | Along the Beam

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