May 15, 2020

Please reload

Recent Posts

Butterflies and Children

November 19, 2016

1/1
Please reload

Featured Posts

Sheep Need the Flock

 

Sermon – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:42-47  ~ John 10:1-10 

New Life Lutheran Church, Dripping Springs, Texas

 

John 10:1 ¶ “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 

John 10:2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

John 10:3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

John 10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

John 10:5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 

John 10:6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 

John 10:7 ¶ So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 

John 10:8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 

John 10:9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 

 

Acts 2:42-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 

¶ Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. 

 

 

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. Today our readings leave Matthew—where we are dwelling this year in the lectionary cycle—and we find ourselves in Jesus’s great “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. 

 

This is one of Jesus’ central statements about who he is, one of his primary metaphors for his relationship with us and with the world:

“I am the good shepherd. I come in by the gate, not climbing in like a thief.”

 

Jesus says, in other words, “You can tell who I am because I am honest - I never pretend to be anything else than who I am.” Even when it was dangerous, Jesus went to Jerusalem. He went to the Temple. Even on the night of his final trial, when his accusers asked him to deny it, he would not, “Are you the Messiah?” Even to save his life, he would not deny the truth. He would not hide or sneak: he walked to Jerusalem eyes wide open, to gather his sheep. 

 

And to go before them to show them the way.

 

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep…He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them.

 

There is so much here, in this passage and combination of metaphors. (Jesus also says here that he is the gate, which is another thing to ponder.) But what really struck me this week about this familiar passage is that the sheep need the flock. The sheep need a good shepherd, who cares for them. On some level, the shepherd needs the sheep, too, I suppose, for his job, his purpose. The shepherd is not assigned to one sheep, he or she cares for the flock in their charge. 

 

 

And the sheep need each other. They are a group. They cue each other, they signal each other. The closeness of each other calms them. They know they are home when they are together, whether that is in the field or the fold. They know who they are as the flock of the Good Shepherd. Which really adds to the power of this image. 

 

The amazing thing about the Good Shepherd is that he’s there to watch the flock, as a whole, but in order to do that, needs to know each sheep, their tendencies, their fears. To know when they are acting sick, or to miss the one when they are lost. Because the health and well-being of the flock depends on each one: they work together, they watch and help each other. 

 

What made that jump out to me was really the first reading, from Acts, which says:

 

Acts 2:42-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 

¶ Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

 

In this brand new church, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christians, the followers of the Way, they taught each other. They studied ancient scripture and talked about where they found Jesus there; and they told stories of his life, and of his followers. And they devoted themselves to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer. And “awe came upon everyone,” because of what happened when they studied and prayed, and shared communion. Signs and wonders. And so they engaged even more deeply, sharing their money, their wealth, helping each other when they were in need. It says:

 

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. 

 

The more they engaged in study, in service, in worship and prayer together, the more goodwill they felt, and the more others wanted to join in. Being together created in them glad and generous hearts. 

 

Maybe I just see that now because we are not together today, in person. And maybe, hopefully, this time apart has maybe helped us think about who we are, together, as a community of faith, as a church, and as part of the larger church. 

 

Many in the religion world are discussing what church will be like in the future: will people get out of the habit of attending? Will people not want to return to buildings, or to the same old Sunday morning worship? Will people in fact be inspired that the church stepped up to help them and their neighbors in this time? Or surprised that in a time of uncertainty and stress, they found they needed their faith? 

 

A common phrase right now is “The church has left the building.” Which, of course, we already knew at New Life. Perhaps this biological crisis will be yet another nudge for the church to return to its roots, as we see in Acts: to studying, worship, prayer and helping each other. To being out in the community and out in the world.

 

This crisis opened many people’s eyes to many things, like being connected to the land and how we meet our basic needs: today shepherds are not that common, and the image is not as powerful as it is where shepherds still work. 

 

These past few weeks, many have rediscovered baking bread, and gardening. We’ve thought more about where our food comes from, like sheep, who are raised for food and for clothing. And in all of this, we have found God. A closeness, a connection, the awareness of our fragility and our helplessness, and our need for each other, for community. Maybe outdoor churches like New Life can help connect the dots between that heightened awareness of God in creation and God in connection to others, and God in worship.

 

John 10:9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 

 

Perhaps we’ll turn from our mindless munching of rich grass and look around again for the Good Shepherd. And the Good Shepherd will be right there, where he was all along, watching us, watching over us, so that we can go back and forth, from the safety of the sheepfold, out to the green pastures, and back again. Jesus didn’t come here, and walk into danger in order to bring judgement, but to herd us togther, so that we can live more fully, and know more joy, more hope—abundance. 

 

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 

 

Amen.

Please reload

Follow Us
Please reload

Search By Tags
Please reload

Archive