Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ
Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
You call us by name
To be with you
To follow you
By your Spirit open my eyes
To see you, to hear your voice
Warm my heart to know
Your Way and design
In my life, and in the world. Amen
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Easter: Fourth Sunday
It is in the absence of a loved one that we sometimes find ourselves more aware of what they said, of things they did. We remember. Jesus alerts his followers that the Holy Spirit will help them remember, and will bring to mind all the things he has said. In this season between Easter and Pentecost, we are drawn into this remembering.
We forget. We become busy and preoccupied. And we listen to a host of other voices—consciously and unconsciously—across the day. The lectionary guide calls us back, turns our attention to Jesus and what he is saying.
In John’s gospel, chapter 10, Jesus helps us see who he is, our shepherd. While most of us live far from fields and farms, cows and sheep, we do know what is like to wonder which voice to listen to, what decision to make, which direction to take. Here Jesus gives us some guidance, some clues as to what to notice. Here we are offered some discernment and clarity. Jesus calls us to pay attention to who is speaking, and to what they are saying. Jesus also calls us to pay attention to what we find happening in our lives because of who we listen to, what voice we follow. Jesus also reveals basic motives of those who speak and call us to follow.
There is the true shepherd – who comes to the sheep by the gate. He is known by the gatekeeper, and by the sheep. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice. The shepherd knows each sheep by name and leads them out of the sheepfold into good pastures. This is the custom of shepherds: they know the sheep – by name – and call them by name. They are respectful of the sheep’s need for shelter, for safe boundaries, and when they call and lead the sheep out of the sheepfold, it is to find pasture and sustenance. It is for the good of the sheep, abundant good. And shepherd stays with them, offers guidance, presence, protection.
There is also the thief, the bandit, who does not respect boundaries, and who does not enter by the gate – the true Way of Jesus – but who contrives and forces entry another way. This robber voice is not known by the sheep; the sheep feel anxious and run from this one who has come to rob, steal, and kill. The sheep recognize the danger and run from the destructive motives and intent of the stranger.
One voice and presence is known by the sheep. Each sheep is known and recognized by name, and the sheep know the voice of the true shepherd who brings peace, shelter, comes with respect—enters through the gate—the true Way of Jesus–and with the intent to care and offer shelter, sustenance, guidance and well-being and true life. Here the kind light of truth shines and reveals the darkness of the lie we have been caught in this side of Eden. And here the shepherd comes to rescue and bring us into the safety of his fold. The rest and restoration of soul we discover in Psalm 23, the provision for our need, the guidance, the protective provision at the table which the shepherd provides – in the presence of all that comes against us, harasses us, speaks of this safety and well-being. Here grace and mercy follow us, rather than guilt, anxiety and shame. We know we belong, and have a place – in the sheepfold among God’s people, and in the life to come.
The other voice contrives another way in, the voice is not known or recognized. A certain fear and anxiety is present in the sheep, and they feel the need to run from this one who comes—not to lead them in safety to pasture—but to steal, to take advantage of them, and ultimately to destroy them. Hear the lie and death-wish of life this side of Eden is at work.
As we enter into the narrative in Acts 2, we become aware of how this “sheepfold” finds expression – the life-giving practices, and provision so that all are provided for. A generosity of heart and practice permeates their life together and apart – guided by the voice and Spirit of Jesus, now present thorough the Spirit.
We are invited to pay attention to how we listen, who we listen to, and to how what we hear and who we follow. We are invited to pay attention to the results – within our own heart and soul and being – and how we then engage with generosity among other followers of Jesus, and how we live in the world.
Spend time resting in the field of Psalm 23 this week; notice how Jesus, the good shepherd, is present with you. Get in touch with your response, and any sense of rest and restoration of soul you are given.
Season of Easter: Fourth Sunday
5/9 Monday: John 10:1-5
5/10 Tuesday: John 10:6-10
5/11 Wednesday: Psalm 23
5/12 Thursday: Acts 2:42-47
5/13 Friday: 1 Peter 2:19-25
5/14 Saturday: John 10:1-5
5/15 Sunday: John 10:6-10