Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Year C Lent 5 WED 2019 The Good Shepherd's Goal

Year C Lent 5 WEDNESDAY, 10 April 2019
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“The Good Shepherd’s Goal”

John 10:1-18
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Once I heard the famous seminary professor Fred Craddock talk about the skill and craft of Preaching. In fact his text, Preaching, is required reading for many a seminary student. His argument is that most preachers preach from a single text, most a single verse. Because he was speaking to a room full of preachers, he encouraged us to filter down our preaching, what is it that we repeatedly come back to, what touchstone keeps coming up in our teaching and preaching.

It did not take me long to get down to my preaching Least Common Denominator. It is even in my Facebook description of myself. Not the whole verse, but the phrasing and homage is there.

It is even in today’s passage. Now the second half of this passage was one of the readings at my ordination to the priesthood, the part that begins “I am the Good Shepherd…” And I asked Bishop Shannon if we could include my key verse, my Fred Craddock One Verse, in the reading. I so appreciated that the Bishop said yes.

So I am opening up the curtain, and telling you something to look for in my teaching and preaching. I am giving you one of my tells, my main one. Look for it whenever I get up to talk, because in all of Scripture I cannot think of anything that summarizes the point of goal of faith better.

It gives us a direction, a purpose, and a way to get there. So have you figured out what I seem to have found so important?

It is the second half of almost a throwaway verse. The first half, out of context, makes us wonder what on earth Jesus was trying to get at, but it becomes clear with the second half.

Enough talking around it. My key verse is John 10:10, emphasis on the second half, please. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. And who is the “they” that Jesus came to bring life? We, YOU AND ME, we are the “they.” We are the sheep who go in and out through the gate, where the Good Shepherd resides. We are allowed to go in and out, not controlled, but cared for. Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He encourages us to go out, live life to its fullest. To be the best you you can be. Thanks be to God!

So that begs the question today. How is your life Abundant? How can you live that Abundant Life? Maybe you are. Jesus wants you to be all that you can be and more. He came for that. His teachings lead you to that. He died for that. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Not fear, Abundance. Amen

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Blessings, Rock