May 15, 2011 was Good Shepherd Sunday. It could have also been called Jesus as the Gate Sunday. I was thankful that in my studies I read Rick Morley’s post on his blog A Garden Path as well as discussing the passage with my good friend, Pastor Carolyn McGuire.
Morley talked about Jesus being the gate through which we were called out of the pen. Carolyn was exploring how we might be able to distinguish the Good Shepherd’s call from the calls of those who might be the thieves and bandits who did not care about our welfare.
After meditating on this passage, John 10:1-10 which you can find at the end of the blog, and reading and thinking about the questions and comments on Morley’s blog, I came to the following thoughts about different aspects of this parable for us today.
I love the image and thought of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calling us out of the pen, whether it is a place of safety and rest or whether it is a place of confinement. Jesus makes an opening and calls us out into the world. His is the voice that tells us to love one another, to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.
There are other shepherds who do not care about the sheep. They are the voices telling us to look out for ourselves, to remember our hurts, take revenge, and hoard our wealth for ourselves. There are voices telling us to be afraid and not trust each other. They are like the thief and bandit who climb over the fence to steal and kill the sheep.
In contrast, Jesus’ voice calls us to love each other more than we love ourselves. Jesus calls to us to forgive the slights and hurts that others give us. Jesus calls us to love God more than we love our traditions and rituals and to trust God more than we trust ourselves.
We need to trust God more than we trust ourselves. That can be hard, even for the church to do, especially for Presbyterians this week when the ordination standards changed back to their historical structure. What might happen? Who will be ordained?
This is an age of much anxiety and fear. I wonder if there has ever been an age that is not. This age needs to hear again that God has done all the work for us. All we need to do is respond. Jesus not only calls but opens the gate and beckons us out into the world, out of our comfort zone, out of our safety zone, and into the mission field where we are to live out our lives, showing the love of God to others.
Can we do that inside the church, so that those who are watching from the outside will actually see that we love one another? I think I hear someone calling, not for me to come home, but for me to go out into the world, sharing what has been given to me. That is where life abundant is – in loving God and each other.
Gospel John 10:1-10
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. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”