Pastoral musicians, tending our flocks

Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Easter, sometimes known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” because the Gospel reading for the day comes from John 10, beginning in verse 11:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd. (CEB)

Staying topical, the supporting Psalm for the day is the twenty-third, which reinforces the worship theme of God, through the persons of the Trinity, guiding and protecting his flock.

The leaders of God’s Church are charged through their calling, and often also through ordination, with shepherding duties, acting as agents of the shepherding God. We acknowledge this with the title of “pastor,” which is Latin for “shepherd.” It’s why many church musicians call themselves “pastoral musicians,” as a way of emphasizing that our role as Sunday morning worship leaders is only a part of the greater charge of guiding and protecting God’s flock with and through music.

I’ve been thinking about what it would mean to take the term “pastoral musician” seriously: how can we be shepherds in the church, using music with the intention to guide, engage, challenge, and protect our congregations?

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How can music help us witness?

In the lectionary readings for this Sunday, we are called to continue to witness to the resurrected Christ. In Luke 24:47, Jesus commands the disciples: “a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Paul affirms this in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” We witness so that the world can come to faith through knowledge of the risen Christ, and as church musicians, we can encourage congregational witness through the use of music in worship.

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