November 8, 2016

A reflection from Bob Hurd on ‘Christ the Good Shepherd’

Artwork for A reflection from Bob Hurd on ‘Christ the Good Shepherd’

An important role of liturgical music is to bring people into the Word of the day, the Gospel especially. So the specific Lectionary context of this song is the Fourth Sunday of Easter—Good Shepherd Sunday (Cycles A, B, C). It is meant as a communion song, though it could also be used for Preparation or post-Communion on this Sunday. When people come to receive the Lord in Communion, they are reminded of the Lord they have already encountered and received in the proclamation of the Gospel. We arrive at reception of the Eucharist always through the Liturgy of the Word.

But this song can also be used more widely. The shepherd theme is also present on the Third Sunday of Easter. When Peter answers the Risen Christ’s three-fold question that he does indeed love him, Christ says, “then feed my sheep.” Being a disciple of Christ means service. So the verses of this song address the love of neighbor implied in receiving Communion. What we receive in Communion is the self-emptying love by which Christ brings healing to our broken world. Communion as food (Christ’s Eucharistic presence) is a symbol of communion as self-sacrificing action for others (Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross). And so to receive the Eucharist is to stand with Christ in self-sacrificing love for the world. This theme makes the song relevant as a communion song all year-round.

In high school I had a rock band and we did many songs by the Byrds, with their signature Rickenbacker 12-string sound (I used to have one—why did I let it go!). I wanted to have a taste of that sound on this song. My long-time session-player and friend, Tim Ellis, brought in his Rickenbacker to lay down the guitar tracks. We played all the songs together on this CD, The Bread of Your Word. He was actually dying of cancer at the time, something that I only became aware of during the recording. It was the last recording he did for OCP. So this song, and the whole CD, will always have this poignant association for me.

Choral Review Service

Bob Hurd’s “Christ the Good Shepherd” is included in the Fall 2016 edition of the OCP Choral Review Service. Every year, subscribers receive sheet music and recordings of more than 70 specially selected choral pieces. Whether it’s new music for your traditional or contemporary choir, settings fit for children’s voices or to inspire intercultural ensembles, OCP has the right choral series to help you unite your community in worship.

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This song can also be found in the collection, The Bread of Your Word.


Bob Hurd
Bob Hurd


With more than 45 years of composing under his belt, Dr. Bob Hurd knows a thing or two about music and liturgy. That might explain why so many of his songs for worship have become classics in the repertoire.

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