Traveling to a new place can be a great adventure. The most venturous are more than willing to take even an unmarked road if they feel it holds the possibility of new knowledge or experience.

But even the most foolhardy traveler wants to believe they can find their way to a familiar path if they come to fear they might be lost.

Christians who are on the way know they have an ever-present companion in the journey, a shepherd always there to guide.

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For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

1 Peter 2:21-25

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Images of  the Oscar winning film Twelve Years a Slave flooded my mind when I read today's passage. What can we say to people who suffered such cruel and inhuman treatment? How do we explain the prejudice, bigotry and arrogance of power that caused and maintained an economic and social system that perpetuated this suffering?

Peter, whom the gospels usually portray as impulsive and fallible, provides us with a version of the Golden Rule, meant to short circuit our reflexive responses of anger and payback. Such emotions will ultimately lead us astray.

We don’t return evil for evil; we trust that God will somehow make things right. But trust in God, our faithful shepherd, will help us support one another until such time when alternative action and systemic change is possible.

Christine Vogel

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God of justice and compassion, let me not avert my gaze from those who live with pain and suffering. Help me find ways to support them and bring change to unjust systems in our world. Amen.

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When my paper heart’s in a frantic wind
And I fear I'm all alone,
My whisper is heard when I call out to him
And I follow the shepherd home.

All the burdens weighing on my back
Aren't so heavy after all.
Faith is knowing you need only ask.
You can follow the shepherd home.
You can follow the shepherd home.

From "Follow the Shepherd Home" by Mindy Smith

Christine Vogel

Christine Vogel is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She has been a parish pastor, a college chaplain and, most recently, the dean of students at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is currently completing a course of studies to be certified as a spiritual director. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Paul.

How Great Thou Art

Clay Mottley

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