Saturday, April 21, 2018

4 Easter Yr B April 22 2018

4 Easter Yr B April 22 2018 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 this 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 also 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 shepherd, 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 when 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, KATHLEEN ANN MONSON, or when she 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! Or when your beloved calls our to you. 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 at green pastures and by still waters, I will guide you 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. My friends, 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 other shepherd does that. 

We are loved absolutely and abundantly. Jesus lays down his life; he suffers and is killed, and is raised from the dead. So we follow this shepherd, who shows us and gives us absolutely new life. We too are called to lay down our lives as a response to that amazing love. And in doing that, we are transformed and created new on the journey. This journey is not about the endgame, it is 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. It is about the broken bread, the spilt wine, the healing, being put back together after a terrible grief. 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, death of the one we love, the death of the things we love, but the promise is that Jesus takes up our life again; Jesus shows us how to do it. We walk together through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus walks with us, and even when it feels like you can’t bear another pain, you put one foot in front of the other, and walk the way, in the promise that death does not have the final word.

And if we are to live this life fully alive, fully aware, fully engaged, and not afraid; if we are to live this life called by our baptism, called by name, marked as Christ’s own forever, we follow the shepherd to the green pasture, beside the still waters, through the valley of the shadow of death and we will come out on the other side.

But it’s pretty scary, isn’t it. You see, death is as much a reality of life as life is. Life is sometimes joyful, sometimes painful, oftentimes uneventful. Death is hard, and scary, and completely and absolutely redefines who we’ve become. And in the midst of it all, in the midst of the joy and the pain of this life, we are called. In the midst of the muck and the mess, in the midst of our imperfection, we are called.

Jesus is the gate. And every sheep, everyone, is welcome. All of us, those who are in pain, grief; those who are just messed up; those whose lives are just fine; those who need more and those who have all they need; those who just can’t believe. You, you are welcome, Jesus is the gate, Jesus is the shepherd, Jesus is the love that wins.


michael v. coogan said...

Thank you. So many rich images for the inexpressible! And it IS a way of life, not an endpoint.

michael v. coogan said...

Thank you. So many rich images for the inexpressible reality of this way of life!

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