Easter 4, Good Shepherd flash back

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Title:Easter 4, Good Shepherd flash back

  Sunday, May 11, 2014, Easter 4  (full size gallery)

A beautiful Mother’s Day with temperatures in the 70’s and the 80’s by noon with bright sunshine. In fact the air conditioning ran for the first time this season.

We had 39 at the 11am service including member’s of Marian’s family, Carolyn’s mother, and Linda Beck’s daughter. The Prayers of the People had one for mother. In addition, Catherine read scriptures at announcements from the Old Testament providing a feminine look at God through the Hebrew language. Sadly, we noted the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria and a recent balloon tragedy in our county taking the lives of three people.  

This was the first Sunday of the UTO which Betty introduced. Catherine also announced the Church had won a $7,000 mustard seed grant, half of the funds necessary to re-leather the bellow of the organ. The bellows job is covered here

Another show was going outside with the full bloom of the Iris in both the front an back – red, purplse and yellow. Cookie provided a beautiful arrangement of those for the altar.

Next week we have a luncheon with Sally O’Brien of the Episcopal Church Building fund just after the service to consider ways we can use our buildings more effectively and to begin a discussion on making St. Peter’s a leader in outreach and mission.

For the next three Sundays, to help us prepare for Pentecost, we have flashback pre-resurrection passages of Scripture. 

This Sunday is about Shepherds.   John’s reading speaks of Jesus as both the Shepherd and the gate, protector and leader. The connection is both personal and loving.  

In a sermon in 2013 the Presiding Bishop made the point about us – "We’re all sheep, and we’re all meant to be shepherds as well. This flock of sheep travels the Jesus road together, and we share the serving ministry.  We have the same good shepherd, who invites us all to share the shepherding work Jesus tells us to shepherd others. We are sheep of his fold, and we are shepherds for others – forgiving as we have been forgiven, washing feet and anointing, and feeding the hungry with good things. It doesn’t require riches, only the courage of a loving heart, a heart that knows its home is with the great good shepherd of us all."

Jesus uses the metaphor of the shepherd to explain his role in the world. John guises Jesus as both the shepherd and the gate – the familiar voice, and the safe door that keeps them inside away from predators.  This is from the beginning of the scripture. In Palestine, sheep belonging to villagers roamed freely during the day but were confined to a common enclosure at night, to protect them from predators. Each morning, each shepherd called his sheep who followed him to pasture.

However, in a  second statement Jesus says, I am the gate for the sheep (v. 7). The scene has shifted from the village to the open field. In the summer sheep are sometimes kept out in the pasture overnight. The pen used is simply an enclosure made of piled rocks. There is neither roof nor door, but thorns along the top of the rock walls protect the sheep from wild animals, and the shepherd himself sleeps in the entrance, providing a door.

So when Jesus says he is the gate for the sheep (v. 7) he is still using the image of a shepherd, but applying it directly to himself. From this picture of a shepherd sleeping in the entrance we would expect Jesus’ role to be the protector of the sheep.

Jesus does indeed protect his own (cf. 6:39; 17:12), but the image is developed here in a surprising way. The sheep are to enter through Jesus (v. 9), something not true of the shepherd sleeping in the entrance of a summer shelter! So the image is not that of a door as a barrier for protection, but of a door as a passageway

In the subsequent tradition this original point has been modified so that the story is understood as an affirmation of Jesus himself as the gate (vss. 7-10) and the ideal (true) shepherd (vss. 11-18). This reapplication of an earlier tradition is effected in several steps:

He is the only “gate” (v. 9) to eternal “life” (v. 10), to freedom (“come in and go out”, v. 9, a Jewish idiom), and to nourishment beyond measure (“find pasture … abundantly”).

The Gate is no longer simply the proper entry point avoided by thieves and robbers who reveal their true identity by their failure to enter at the appropriate place. Now the Gate is an attribute of Jesus personally.

The sermon looked at the call, the voice of the shepherd since the sheep know his voice:

"Abundant life is about being brought together by the Holy Spirit into a community where God is in charge and we, the sheep, are intentional about and dedicated to the study of God’s word;a community in which we sheep feed and care for and tend one another as God tends to us; and a community of prayer—a community in which we intentionally and regularly pray for one another in our deepest and most heartfelt prayers, a community into which God brings us, a community that has within it green pastures and still waters and the banquet table set before us,a community constantly refreshed so that the shepherd can lead it out into the world in service. Now we have a way to test the voices that call to us throughout our lives by asking this question.  Where is that voice calling us and what is it asking us to do? 

The readings are here.

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