I’ve been thinking a lot this week of how comforting this familiar passage from John’s gospel feels. For me, it feels comforting as we are reminded of Jesus’ praiseworthy and faithful self-understanding as leader when he describes himself as the ‘good shepherd’ of his flock.
It’s comforting to me to know that our task as his sheep is not to lead, but to follow.
It’s comforting to me to be reminded from this reading that it’s not all about us but rather, its all about God.
It’s all about the bringing to life of God’s dream for the world-a world where the blind might become sighted and the dead brought to new life as in the two stories that bookend this text from John’s gospel.
But, the passage is not just all about comfort as we acknowledge the image of ‘shepherd’ has its own edge to it.
After all it was a dirty, smelly, rough and tumble bunch who were guarding their flocks in the fields by night as the bright star leading to Jesus’ birthplace was foretold.
Those shepherds were not ones we commonly think of when we think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
There’s a bit of an edge to Jesus’ self-proclamation as the Good Shepherd for his listeners in John’s gospel as we think of other biblical leaders like Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even David.
For those first listeners, these leaders also honed their skills as shepherds of their own flocks.
There’s a bit of an edge to Jesus’ self-description as the Good Shepherd as he compares and contrasts his own leadership authority with that of the hired hand, a false shepherd who will be unable to hold fast in the face of conflict and peril.
There’s a bit of an edge, too, as Jesus speaks of the nature of his own intimate connection with God which mirrors that of the Good Shepherd to his sheep.
There’s also the expectation that might be made of the Good Shepherd to lay down his life for the good of the flock.
Perhaps this balance of comfort and edginess is exactly what we need to hear this morning as we gather for the fourth Sunday in the season of Easter.
It makes for something of a change to our stories from scripture for the last three Sundays which emphasize the presence of the risen Christ in the gathered community’s midst.
Here, this morning, then, we have this blend of comfort and edginess to be found in John’s gospel.
A cautionary tale coming to us in the midst of our own busyness as a church family-busyness that included yesterday’s garage sale and next weekend’s Spring Tea.
Sandwiched in between all of that was the de-covenanting service for your former minister, the Rev. Dr. Jeff Seaton last weekend.
From there, the ensuing need to develop a search team to focus on what shape your ministry needs to take in coming months will undoubtedly add to the busy-ness of your call to be the body of Christ in this time and in this place.
Come, then, let us rest in the sure and comforting knowledge that God, through Jesus, has ‘got’ this.
Let us rest in the sure and comforting knowledge that our responsibilities as a flock are outlined in small ‘r’ rather than capital ‘R’ letters.
Let us not lose sight of today’s edgy good news that its not all about us.
Rather, it’s all about God and the bringing to life of God’s kingdom where the last shall be first and the first last.
Let us not lose sight of our relentlessly pursuing God who knows and protects us from the hired hands and the wolves of our worlds.
Let us not be so distracted by our small ‘r’ responsibilities that we lose sight of God’s claim on our lives to be about the building up of Christian community both within and beyond our building and our property grounds.
Jesus’ self-declaration “I am the Good Shepherd” brings us hope that we are in the hands of a our noble, true, competent, faithful, and praiseworthy emissary from God!
This, in itself, is worthy of our ongoing celebration and response.
Let us be sure then to listen for how the Good Shepherd’s comforting but edgy voice calls, guides, and leads us as we are commissioned into new ways of being the church in this time and in this place.
For all of this and more, I say, alleluia, Amen!
Rev. Liz Bowyer reserves all rights © 2018.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.