4th Sunday of Easter
April 29 2012
John 10: 11-18
To tell you the truth, I am not sure I really enjoy being called a sheep. Sheep are smelly and dumb. I much prefer goats, who are witty and single-minded. But that’s just me.
I think what Jesus is trying to tell us in the image he creates for us today, is about faithfulness. For all the images in ancient literature about leadership being shepherding, the fact remains that unless the flock is your flock, you will most likely not stick around when things get scary. When confronted with real danger, the shepherd flees. After all, it’s just a job for him or her.
But when it’s your flock, you are willing to defend them to the death, because they are your livelihood and the fruit of your own labor. And so we see that Jesus is willing to go even to death for the love of his flock. I am willing to be part of that flock.
Actually, I know all too well that there are wolves and bears and real danger out there. How about you? Community pressures are all around – you know when you step out the door on that morning that you didn’t really get dressed to your usual standards, that you will run into the most critical people you know. And you’ll be a bit embarrassed. If you make a mistake in your job, or in your life, the world is quick to cluck about you and your prospects. And there is always real danger: those you love can be lost in an instant, your livelihood can be taken away from you for reasons that make no sense, your children can make mistakes that change their lives forever.
When is there any hope, any peace? It’s in the sheepfold, with Jesus as your shepherd. It’s here among God’s Beloved, gathered week by week to hear the words of love and comfort. It’s here where you meet the Word himself, Jesus, who loved you so much, brought you back from death with him in your baptism, and called you to be part of his flock. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” What peace that picture gives; such love and intimacy offered for those who confront the wolves of our own fears and the terrors of the world every day.
Take the gift of God’s love offered to you here. Don’t let your own failures and inadequacies keep you from coming to be gathered into the place of peace. God loves you. God invites you. God heals your sin and gives you a new heart and a new life. Let yourself be welcomed and embraced, you can face the wolves and bears another day, knowing that Jesus walks with you to keep you safe and gather you up every evening. Let us rejoice together in this love when we meet here, and let the love of God lead us always into peaceful places. Amen.
Now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.