St. Mary Nanoose Bay
May 3, 2020
John 10:1-10 “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Today we hear about the good shepherd and the sheep. I’m sure sheep are lovable, but I think it’s common knowledge that they are not the brightest of animals. But they know their shepherd’s voice. That shows intelligence. Because if a sheep wanders off alone, it is in real danger.
It’s important to know who to follow, especially when the voices calling to us are saying such different things - “Shelter in place” and “Don’t shelter in place - if you have faith, you will be safe.” “So if God provides abundantly then if you are wealthy and successful you must be doing something right” and, “If you have a challenging life, God is withholding from you” “Covid-19 is a punishment for something,” and “What can we learn from this pandemic?” or “The economy is the most important thing,” and “human thriving, loving relationships and a healthy environment are equally important.” The voices coming at us in this culture are loud, insistent and persuasive. We constantly being reminded that we lacking something – a product, service or experience that we NEED in order to be well, happy or liked.
We look to our leaders to guide us, and some of them are very good servants, but still?? The leadership we, as Christians, profess is the following of something larger than us, bigger than our structures, preferences and ideas. It is the acknowledgement that there is an ultimate leader - the Creator of everything and everyone. It is the leadership of a divine intelligence embedded in this abundant life.
The question for us from today’s reading is - Do we recognize the voice of the good shepherd over all the other voices promising abundance?
The reading from John’s gospel today follows the story of the blind man whom Jesus heals. If you remember, Jesus heals the man and sends him to cleanse himself in a ritual bath. When he returns, the Pharisees interrogate him and essentially reject him. These are the leaders who purport to be the shepherds of their people, whose role is to care for and protect the people, but in fact, they turn out to be the ones to exclude precisely those who need their care.
Jesus then seeks the healed man out and brings him into the fold; into the community. The man knows his voice and willingly enters through the gate.
So today’s reading speaks to this whole situation. Who is the true leader, how do we recognize the truth, who should we follow?
Well, for starters, a true leader is a servant. One who uses their position for the well being of others, not to benefit themselves. One who doesn’t climb over the fence to take what is not theirs to have, does not use others, and does not put others at risk.
So, it’s easy to see that Jesus is the true shepherd. The one, who does God’s will, for the benefit for all in his care.
But Jesus says something else that is really interesting. Jesus suggests that not only is he the shepherd, but he is the gate. “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.”
Shepherd? Gate? What do they have in common?
They work together to do 2 things;
1. guard and protect
2. nourish and provide for
The shepherd and the gate keep predators and thieves out, and the shepherd and the gate allow passage to pasture where essential needs are fulfilled.
Open and shut. Night and time. Safety and opportunity. Protection and nurturance. Waiting and action.
Jesus healed the blind man and brought him into the protection of community.
The Pharisees rejected the blind man, once healed, rejected the healing as coming from God, and expelled the man from their protection, depriving him of access to help for his basic needs.
We think we have to develop the ability to know our Leader’s voice. But just as we bonded with our mother in her womb and afterward, we have the same innate bonding with the divine.
And this time of Covid is the perfect time to slow down and spend time observing nature, the work of our Creator, and the divine pattern for our lives. And to strengthen our connection with the One who offers real abundance; the living water that quenches our thirst.
But if we take too much, more than we need, we stress others and the earth.
If we don’t take time to rest, we deplete ourselves and our resources.
If we don’t take time to give thanks for what we have been given, we will always be wanting for more.
If we don’t share, our selfishness will come back and bite us in the rear.
Our shepherd is calling us to new life. Life in and after the time of Covid. The life being offered is abundant. But if we don’t see or accept it for what it is, we will return to our obsessively busy and grasping ways.
“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Our shepherd promises to take care of us. Can we let go of our own ideas and enter through the gate to find the safety promised us? Can we wait to be let out of the gate to realize the abundance promised us?
Let’s not waste this time of waiting. Waiting is not stagnant. It can be such a fertile time! Let us be still and observant and learn the lessons being offered. Let us take the time to re-tune our hearing so we know our shepherd’s voice.
For as Christians, we claim the promise – that we are constantly being given life, with each breath, every day, and that life is abundant, not by worldly standards, but known by the sense of gratitude we develop as we sharpen our eyes and ears and come to know that worn, familiar gate, the presence of that caring shepherd who has nothing but our well being in mind.
Thanks be to God.