April 22, 2018 Easter 4
Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
The Good Shepherd
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen. Psalm 19:14
Alleluia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Here it is the fourth Sunday of Easter and we are leaving behind the resurrection stories and moving on to stories of the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep.
As many of you know I am the daughter of a shepherd or a shepherdess if you prefer. Mum shipped her January lambs off for the Easter market and now is busy with new Spring lambs. She has 12 ewes who are first time mothers. Mum sees that the mothers have grain, fresh hay and water and minerals to keep them healthy. She keeps a baby monitor in her bedroom so she can hear if a sheep is distressed. Mum helps with the deliveries when necessary and gives the new lambs their shots, documents each birth and bottle feeds when necessary to help out the mother. It is not unusual to call Mum and find that there is a lamb spending a few days in the basement. A ewe may find it difficult to feed triplets since they are built for two. And worrying about wolves is real. Mum came out the barn a couple of weeks ago and smelt the strong odor of coyote and there they were the tracks of a pair of coyotes passing the barn and going off into the trees. I was anxious to hear whether Mum had any further run-ins with the coyotes and fortunately she has not. It probably helps that she has a Great Pyrenees, a large creamy, long-haired dog that lives with the sheep; Candy is very protective of her sheep and knows when something or someone new is around. When I take a visit up home, I can still count on a good home cooked meal and some quality time with Mum. Mum knows for whom she is their shepherd, she knows who her sheep are and they know her voice. When she wants company when she goes for a walk to check on the sheep in the field or help unloading a wagon full of hay I help her and I am a shepherd too. There are times when we are the shepherd and there are times when we are the one being cared for.
Bishop Whayne is our Good Shepherd in our diocese following in the footsteps of the bishops who came before him back through the centuries to the original apostles who followed the example of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. He carries a crozier that symbolizes his role as the Good Shepherd. The Bishop’s role is to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ; sharing in the leadership of the Church throughout the world.
Just as my mother protects her sheep, feeding them, caring for their health and welfare, calling for a vet when necessary, providing a guard dog, Bishop Whayne protects the Church and our faith as passed down through the centuries. I work here in Albion as your priest acting on behalf of the Bishop accountable for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, baptizing, offering the Holy Eucharist and providing pastoral care, the feeding and care of the church. Oscar Romero Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture and was assassinated in 1980 while offering Mass. While I hope Bishop Whayne never finds himself in such a situation, this shows our bishops are willing to die for the Church they protect.
Just as my mother’s sheep recognize her voice and follow her, but scatter when they hear my voice, so the Church recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd the one who loves and cares for them. In this morning’s gospel from John Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd and will lay down his life for the sheep. This side of Easter we know that Jesus actually did willingly offer his life and was killed and that God raised him to new life in his resurrection. I find verse 16 intriguing, what did Jesus mean when he said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” One answer is that he meant the same people as Oscar Romero was defending, the poor, the marginalized, women, children, the powerless, the foreigner, the sick and the lame. We can see this clearly in Jesus’ ministry. Another answer is the gentiles. Although Jesus’ ministry was primarily with the lost sheep that had strayed away from Judaism, following his resurrection Jesus sends out his disciples to proclaim the Good News and to baptize all nations. Peter’s ministry was primarily with the Jews, but Paul’s ministry was to the gentiles, the non-Jews.
Who is our ministry for? I believe it is the same. We care and feed the members of the Church. We call back to the church those who have wandered away from the church because of the cares and worries of this life, to those who have been shamed and driven away, the poor, the mentally ill, the other, to those who have lost their faith and those who never had it, to those who have never heard the name Jesus Christ other than as a cuss word.
But I wonder if those other flocks might also refer to non-Christians. As Episcopalians we appreciate our way of worship and belief, but we do not believe that we are the only ones who will be saved and go to heaven. I hope and believe that people encounter God in other churches than ours. I also believe in a God so big and awesome that God is able to reach out to people of other faith traditions. Our job is not to convert, but to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to baptize those who request it. Enough killing in the name of God has been done over the centuries even in our century. We are called to live the life of a Christian in our homes and in our lives showing love and care for all we encounter that they may know we are Christians by our love.
My Mother knows for whom she is a shepherd, her sheep and her family. Our Bishop knows for whom he is a shepherd, the Church, the Diocese of Western Michigan, his priests and his family. I am a shepherd for the parish of St. James’ in Albion and for my family including my Mum. Do you know for whom you are a shepherd? It is important to know for whom you are a shepherd to love and to care for and equally important to know and accept that you too are loved and cared for by your shepherd. May the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ be with us for ever more. Amen.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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