May 3, 2020
View from the Inside – May 3, 2020
Welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday. Today, as we dig into the gospel, it is important to know the context. Too often we hear the lectionary we hear the reading of the week, and we do not know exactly what comes before exactly what comes after. But I think it is important to put the reading in context.
In the chapter before Our reading today, the end of chapter nine of john, we hear the story of the blind man being healed and the Pharisees are calling Jesus out on one thing or another and ask him about sin. Jesus says to them ‘okay, so… but this man can now see … it wasn’t about sin. And yet you can see, but don’t understand therefore you are in sin.’ It after this that he breaks into the story about the sheep and the sheep fold.
Right after this also important. We call this Sunday Good Shepherd Sunday, but we don’t actually hear anything about the “Good Shepherd.” We talked about Jesus being the shepherd but right after this Jesus saying, “… and I am the good shepherd who will lay down his life for the sheep.”
So now we have the context.
A couple of months ago we talked about sheep. I do not know if you remember this so I’m going so I get to say it again, sheep are funny animals. They are not particularly smart, but they know their master. Sheep know who they belong to, they recognize their masters voice.
This reminds me of a dog we used to have, his name was Jack, Noah named him jack because he was Jack Russell, and he had all the issues that comes along with having a jack Russell. He was super hyper. We had to send him off to doggy daycare pretty much every day just so he did not destroy the house.
There were two sections at daycare, there was one section for the big dogs and one for small dogs. Jack was always kept with the big dogs. I thought that was interesting because he wasn’t particularly big until the first time, I came to pick him up, I walked around the corner and apparently he heard me and was trying to get to the door. As I walked around the corner, I realized that he was hopping from the back of one big dog to another. It was because he heard my voice. He knew my voice.
Many of you not all of you but many of you have a pet, a dog or a cat or a bunny or whatever it is, and you know that when you’ve had that pet for a while they come to know your voice. But how do they become aware of your voice? You spend time with them. You build a relationship with them.
In our parable today Jesus in saying that he is going to call his sheep and they will know His voice, ‘My people, my flock will know my voice.’
Sheepfolds, that is something I think that we need to talk about, I need to show you a sheepfold. This is an ancient kind of sheepfold.
So, if you cannot see the picture Let me explain. It is basically a stone wall, most of them apparently were made of stone, and they were basically a circle with an entrance, just a hole in the brick wall at one spot.
Sometimes there were actual gates, but often, there were not, it was just an opening.
When Jesus said, “I am the gate. I am the gate, through which the sheep must pass” that is what he was talking about. Often the shepherds would lay and sleep in the gateway, in the opening. They would make themselves the gate that they would be protecting their sheep from thieves, bandits, wolves, and such things.
Basically, what Jesus is saying there when he says that I am the gate, I am the way, he is saying, I am there to protect my flock.
So, what is he protecting them from? I have heard this passage preached, more than a few times in a way that leads one to believe that Jesus is protecting the flock from wrong thinkers. “If your theology isn’t like mine. If you don’t believe in the Trinity exactly like I believe in the Trinity, if you don’t understand the resurrection in the exactly the same way or if you don’t understand scripture in exactly the same way. Jesus is protecting the flock from you.
I have even heard it, taking a step further about political leanings. How do you believe about conservative issues or liberal issues? How do you feel about same sex marriage? How do you feel about immigration or Border Protection, or opening the government? If you do not believe like me. Jesus must be protecting the flock from you.
So, what does it mean to be a Christian? I think it means that we follow Jesus. We know Jesus, we are in relationship with Jesus. And what does Jesus say that we should hang on to the law and the prophets upon? Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10 all say the same thing. “You will love your God with all of your heart, and all of your mind and all of your soul and you will love your neighbor as yourself on these two things hung out the law and the prophets.”
So what is Jesus, protecting the flock from? Is he judging me, keeping me from coming in?
John 3:16 say it says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone believes in him and not perish but have eternal life.” But we never hear John 3:17 “indeed, He did not come into the world to judge the world – to condemn the world, but in order to save the world.”
Jesus did not come to condemn us; He came to show us a better way! So, what is Jesus protecting?
He is protecting us.
Too often we pictured this parable as though we are standing on the outside of the flock and brothers and sisters, we aren’t.
We are the flock! Jesus is protecting us, you and me. So, what is he protecting us from?
When I hear Jesus’s voice, what do I hear? I think in the world today in the world in which we live. There are a lot of voices out there. What voices are you listening to? Are you listening to the politicians and the fear mongers? Are you listening to your inner saboteur? Are you listening to that fear and that anxiety that rules your life? That is what Jesus is protecting us from!
Jesus came to show us that there is a better way, and that better way is to hear the love that is God. Jesus came to show us a way of love, not of judgment.
Our job as Christians is not to judge. Often do we hear “Love the sinner Hate the sin.” How about we just love. Love My brother and sister love those who I may disagree with just love them. That is what God is calling us to do. Just love – like our Presiding Bishop often says, “if it ain’t about love, and it ain’t about God.”
Brothers and sisters in this time of fear and anxiety and endless news that seems dark and dreary, Stop! Stop and listen for God’s loving voice. He is speaking. He is speaking through actions that are taken – actions of kindness and love – of food in the parking lot going to people that need it. He is speaking in the act of picking up the phone calling somebody you have not talked to in a while. He is speaking in the acts of Love that we see and that we do.
Brothers and sister, Jesus is speaking to you in this parable. Not how you are being Judged but by how you are being loved! God loves you. Believe that and hear God’s voice. Stop and listen because I promise – God’s love is there if you just stop to listen.