This week's reading tells us in clear, compelling words where the Christian life begins and ends, where the church finds its purpose. It’s not with condemnation; it’s with love. It’s a commandment from Christ. It’s a gift, and it is new. What an interesting collection of descriptors.
The people in an Ohio county were angry with the area’s red foxes because they had eaten some of the people’s domestic chickens and many of the wild quail. So 600 men, women and children formed a circle five miles across, walked through the woods and frightened the foxes out into the open by shouting. Inside of a shrinking circle the foxes ran about in panic, exhausting themselves.
This Sunday of words and songs about sheep and shepherds has always challenged me. For most of my preaching life I’ve been in or near a city. Now I live in New York City, where as far as I know even the Sheep Meadow in Central Park has no sheep.
Yet here is an enduring image from Jesus, an image captured perhaps millions of times in our art, our songs, our stories.
I’ve always been challenged by the lectionary readings for this Sunday. Although both Psalm 23 and John refer to Jesus the Shepherd and us as sheep, I live in New York City, and as far as I can tell, even the Sheep Meadow in Central Park has no sheep. Yet we sing Psalm 23 each year on this Sunday and at countless other times in convalescent homes and at gravesides.