Saturday, April 25, 2015

4 Easter Yr B April 26 2015

4 Easter Yr B Ap 26 2015 Audio

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. The words of the 23rd Psalm may be the most familiar words in the bible. The image of Jesus the Good Shepherd may be the most familiar image in the bible. It is depicted in artwork and in music. We describe congregations as flocks, we describe pastors as shepherds. It isn't the only image of Jesus, but it may be the most comfortable. Jesus is the bread, the light, a path, a gate, a vine. There are many. 

Each one of the images that is presented to us about who Jesus is, the bread, the light, a path, a gate, a vine reveals something about the fullness and the wholeness and the extent of Jesus' invitation into the reality of the gift of God's love, the gift of God in our midst. Each of these images invites us in a different sort of way into how we might be related, how we might be in relationship, and what that trust is like and what it is about. This image we have before us today, this image of the Good Shepherd, helps us to see the fullness of God's investment in God's project of calling all people to God's self. We have in this story comfort and trust and guidance and, we are called by name.

Hear the sound of your name as the one you love speaks it. Hear the sound of your name as your best friend in all the world is on the other end of the phone. Remember the sound of your name when your mom called you for dinner, or maybe used your entire name when you did something you shouldn’t have done, or sang you to sleep at night. Even remember the sound of your name when used in anger, or in fear, Kathy, get out of the street! When you hear your name like this, you know the one who is speaking it knows who you are. They’ve known you forever, they knew you before you were born, they’ve expected your homecoming, they named you, they love you. 

Hear the sound of your name as this one who loves you speaks it. You were called into being before you were born. Your name was spoken at your baptism. You are called to be the person you were created to be, the minister you were created to be. Kathy, follow me, you’ll be fed by green pastures and still waters, I will guide along right pathways, and be by your side through the valley of the shadow of death. I will feed you, and fill you. You have been anointed for the work I call you to do. 

Each of us are called by name, often lovingly, sometimes urgently, like the sheep, we seek that voice that calls. Sometimes, we wander far and get caught in the brambles, we get hurt, we break our leg. 

But, the radical nature of Jesus the Good Shepherd is that this shepherd gives his life for the sheep. That is the good news of this shepherd. In our passage we hear about the hired hand, the hired shepherd, who leaves the sheep and runs away when danger comes. The gospel writer John, shows us that is not who Jesus is. But you and I are called by name, and this particular shepherd is not like the others. This shepherd says and does something truly radical. “I lay down my life for my sheep." No shepherd does that. 

We are loved absolutely and abundantly. Jesus laid down his life; he suffered and was killed, and was resurrected from the dead. So we follow this shepherd, who shows us and gives us absolutely new life, in laying down our lives as a response to that amazing love. And we are transformed and created new on that journey. The journey is not about the endgame, but about being the body of Christ while we journey together. It is about the love and care we have for each other and the rest of creation. Resurrection is a way of life. We think Easter is a day, but it is not, Easter resurrection is a way of life.

Because of our limited human imagination, we think death is an ending. Jesus, the shepherd, shows us that death is just the beginning. It is the beginning of the new creation. It is the beginning of transformation. It is the beginning of being created in God’s image. Death is painful, death is hard, but the promise is that Jesus takes up our life again; Jesus shows us how to do it. 

If we are to live this life fully alive, fully aware, fully engaged; if we are to live this life called by our baptism, called by name, marked as Christ’s own forever, we must follow the shepherd to the green pasture, beside the still waters, through the valley of the shadow of death. We must follow the example of the shepherd to die to that which keeps us from ourselves, we must die to that which gets in our way of helping our brother or sister, we must tear down the walls that we build around us that prevent us from seeking and serving Christ in all persons. 

This time as I was reading this passage which is so familiar, I was struck by the line "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." This has caused me to wonder again about this image of this shepherd. It is so expansive. In addition to this particular flock of sheep that the Good Shepherd protects and calls by name, Jesus calls others we don't even know about yet, by name. That is truly exciting. So I wonder if that is where we might want to focus our energies and our thoughts at this time. Jesus calls not only us by name, but those we don't even know yet. Jesus knows them. Maybe that's what this image of Good Shepherd, and the sheepfold has to do with us today. There is this whole other population of people that Jesus also calls by name, that Jesus also loves dearly and desperately, that are also a part of God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. I think the question, or maybe even the call that Jesus has for us today is, how do we go into the world and see and experience all of those whom Jesus calls and we do not yet know? How do we go into the world and find Jesus' presence, Jesus' resurrection, in all of those whom Jesus calls and we do not yet know? How are we a part of God's mission, how are we a part of the work that Jesus is doing in the world, how are we a part of the whole of group of sheep that Jesus calls and loves and includes with God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world? How might we get on board with God's mission in the world? How are we living as Easter people?

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