Christ - The Good Shepherd

Easter 4B’21

25 April 2021

John 10.11-18

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice, we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; Amen.

          -From the Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Americans now check their phones 96 times a day – that’s once every 10 minutes, according to current research by the global tech company Asurion.[1] That’s a lot of news, weather, and sports, not to mention social media, like Facebook, twitter, Instagram and political commentators, and podcasts on every subject known to humankind – and that’s just form one device that can be taken with us literally everywhere we go, including the bathroom! Add to this all that comes at us from our computer and TV screens, and smart speakers and it’s a wonder we can still put together two coherent sentences of our own.

This past week my daughter and me have been listening to ABBA the 70’s pop group’s greatest hits on the way to school. The next morning, we both found that the catching tunes and poetic rhymes had been intruding into our thoughts over the past 24 hours.

Our brains are a lot like computer hard drives they have only so much available memory space before they become maxed out – overfilled with data. I think that is a pretty good description for most of us in the modern world – Maxed Out and Overfilled with data! Say it another way – we are overfilled with voices.

Each of these voices are clamoring for our attention, our time, and ultimately our money. Be careful what you say near one of your electronic devices, especially smart speakers, unless you want to start getting ads, in your news feeds, social media, and your email inbox.

 

Into this great multitude of voices comes a single Voice – the Voice of the Good Shepherd seeking to find room in our hearts and minds. 20th cen. poet T.S. Eliot wrote about this in his poem, Ash Wednesday: 

And the light shone in darkness and

Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled

about the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee?

Where shall the word be found, where will the word Resound?

Not here, there is not enough silence

Not on the sea or on the islands, not

On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,

For those who walk in darkness

Both in the day time and in the night time

The right time and the right place are not here

No place of grace for those who avoid the face

No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise

and deny the voice.

The symbol of the Shepherd is one of the Christian faith’s most enduring symbols. On the front cover is a Syrian Christian sculpture from the 4th cen. This symbol can be found on the walls of the catacombs of Rome. One of the most successful children’s Sunday school curriculums is called the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.” Our Holy Scriptures are literally bookended by this symbol starting with Adam and Eve’s son Abel who was a “keeper of sheep”, and with Jesus at the center of the book of Revelation as “The Lamb of God.”

In later books of the Old Testament there are patriarchs like Jacob, Moses, and the best known – David the shepherd who would be king who wrote that wonderful 23rd Psalm. Then the prophets began to make comparisons between God and the shepherd: like Isaiah said: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them”… Then this from Ezekiel: “Behold, I, even I. will both search for my sheep, and seek them out.” In the New Testament, to whom should the angels appear with the first message of Christmas – but to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. In the Gospels John the Baptist declares: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And then from Jesus’ own mouth he declares: “I am the good shepherd…” Now where have we heard the words “I Am” mentioned before? That’s right, thank you Cecil B. DeMille for your movie The Ten Commandments! Before Moses went off to see Pharoah he asked what God’s name was, and God, says: “Tell them I Am has sent you.”  Jesus the Messiah makes connection with God the Father by picking up with this name of I Am and filling in the blanks by saying: “I Am the bread of life – I Am the light of the world – I Am the Door of the sheep – I Am the Vine – I am the Resurrection and the Life – I Am the Way – the Truth – and The Life, and last but not least – I AM the Good Shepherd.”  

If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then it’s clear that we are His sheep, as the psalmist wrote: “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps.100.3) Contrary to popular opinion, Sheep aren’t dumb for flocking together, they do this in order to stay alive, because alone they are more vulnerable to natural predators like Coyotes, wolves, foxes, and bears. Straying from the flock is a sure-fire way to become someone else’s dinner! But straying is certainly our tendency. The prophet Isaiah got it right when he wrote: “All we like sheep, have gone astray (Isaiah 53) The Message translation puts it this way: We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.”  Jesus – the Good Shepherd is who we need, He is the only one who has the food our souls crave, he is the only one that can find us when we are stumbling in the dark, he can open the doors we need to come open because he is the door! He is the one we can draw our strength from in good times and in the bad times and help us fulfill our purpose. He knows the truth because he is the Truth, he knows the Way because he is the Way to a more abundant Life!

Life is what happens when we put down the phone – when we make room for silence and space for the loving Voice of the good shepherd to call us each by name, and show us the path to where the good soul food is

As the pandemic continues to abate, hear this word, O sheep of St. Luke’s:

Come Home.

come out of isolation and come home,

sheep are more vulnerable when they are out on their own,

 Come Home,

 here you’ll find green pasture,

still and holy waters,

and a pew with your name on it!  Amen!

 

 

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4106 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
North Little Rock, AR 72116

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Phone: (501) 753-4281
Fax: (501) 753-4322

Email: stlukesnlr@gmail.com

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