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     This Week's Focus: "The Good Shepherd"
         Click Link for John 10:1-10
   


    
 








 

 Dear Friends,
 
Cowboys “drive” cattle. But shepherds “lead” sheep. It is hardly a subtle distinction. The Good Shepherd does not stampede us towards salvation. He calls his flock. We know his voice. We follow him knowing that his way is the right way. It is God’s way and it leads to eternal life.

The Good Shepherd has earned our trust. He went to the cross for us. And in the glory of Easter, he is back among us… triumphant over sin and death. In this time of pandemic, look around you through the eyes of faith. Christ is in our midst… comforting, encouraging, protecting. He’s in the kindness of strangers… the insult overlooked… the injury forgiven. The Good Shepherd calls and we answer... bringing our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows… trusting that he is the way.

In John’s gospel, Jesus uses the “I am” formulation repeatedly to illustrate different aspects of his mission. In John 10, Jesus uses the construction twice: I am the gate. And, I am the Good Shepherd. The metaphors are different. The message is the same. Jesus is proclaiming his leadership. He is enlisting our followership.

The leadership lesson of Jesus is clear. The Good Shepherd is the ultimate servant/leader. He lives for his flock. He dies for his flock. The followership lesson is harder to grasp. As 21st Century Americans, we have difficulty identifying with sheep. It’s not just that we’ve lost our farm roots. Our pride tells us we’re a lot smarter than sheep. Sure, we’ll listen to the sermons. We’ll say the prayers. But we have our reservations. It’s a function of the ego-driven culture that surrounds us.

Our society screams: “It’s all about me!” But ironically, if you’re looking for a four-word formula for failure: “It’s all about me.” certainly fits the bill. There’s no future as a Kardashian wannabe… trying to fill the hole in our souls with more and better stuff… trying to be the center of our own private universe. It’s all about me is all about pride and insecurity… anxiety and longing… and ultimately disappointment and despair. All taken to lower lows in our isolation as we work at flattening the pandemic curve.

St. Augustine points us to a better way… the way of union with God through the love of Christ: Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Building on Augustine, Thomas a Kempis takes us further into this sacred union. He describes the Christian life as an imitation of Christ… following ever closer… until our thoughts and actions become one with his.    
  
So where do we learn this better way? Where do we learn to follow Christ? In scripture, Jesus conducts a timeless seminar on leadership and followership. And the primary lesson is Love. Jesus is literally the embodiment of God’s love. We are drawn to this love. It fills the void in our being that God created precisely for that purpose. We are not scolded or coerced or bullied into love. That is not the Good Shepherd’s way. His love is the call that we follow.

It is echoed back to us in the voices of saints… both old and new. We hear it from Martin Luther King in the Birmingham Jail… from Mother Teresa in a Calcutta slum… from Billy Graham on his last crusade. They tell us that Jesus was not some well-meaning prophet who got himself killed. They tell us he is our living, loving Savior… faithful to the cross and beyond. He walks among us today. He calls us today.

My friend Bill, a retired engineer, answered that call recently to spend a year teaching poor kids in Peru. Another family of friends spent a summer building a clinic in Uganda. Closer to home, I’ve seen fellow first-responders, both the professionals and the volunteers, drop everything and rush to the aid of COVID-19 patients and injured strangers. They and countless Christians continue to hear the Shepherd and follow him.

And what is our answer to Christ’s love call? “Sorry, I’m busy.” “I gave at the office.” “I’d like to help, but not right now.” There’s an encyclopedia of excuses. I’ve heard them all. And I’ve used a lot of them. Chances are you have too. But the Good Shepherd does not give up on us. He relentlessly pursues us. Swatting our excuses aside, until we come face to face with the reality of his love.
Listen for him. Follow him. That may not mean a mission to the third-world or a life-saving rescue. It may mean just more quiet time with Jesus… or reaching out to a neighbor who’s struggling… overlooking a slight… forgiving a hurt. But what better way to spend the Easter season than listening for the voice of the risen Savior? What better way than answering the Good Shepherd’s call?

Alleluia. He is risen.
 
God love you!



A Reflection for
Fourth Sunday of Easter
©The Reverend Canon David F. Sellery


 
Copyright © 2020 David Sellery, All rights reserved.


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