Acts 9:36-43 (Psalm 23); Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
Acts 4:5-12 (Psalm 23); 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
This is no voluntary association, no transactional contract. The sheep do not earn the shepherd or elect him.
I was looking through a high school yearbook recently, a dangerous thing to do when 40 years have passed. I got lost staring at the silly hairstyles, the photos of teachers who are long since gone, the friend in the senior play whose name is now etched on the Vietnam memorial. It was a time of turmoil and strife in the nation. Racial tensions, assassinations and war were tearing the country apart. But you would never know that from my yearbook’s carefree and hopeful class photos.
A church in Oregon has a rule: no one in its membership will be in need.
I see nothing in what Jesus said or did that prepared us for the scattering of the flock into denominations.
Although the images of shepherd and sheep wind their way through these lectionary texts, they are difficult images for the contemporary church to embrace. I recall many of the adults in one congregation cringing during a children’s time a few years ago, when a well-intentioned volunteer tried to teach the children a song that had them “baa-ing” for Jesus. What are we teaching our children, some of us wondered: To follow the crowd without question? To have no mind of one’s own? To expect someone else to take care of us?
My grandfather was a retired navy officer when he died, so we held his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. We were greeted at the gates by armed guards. Taps played while my grandfather’s ashes were put into a horse-drawn casket. An American flag was folded and presented to my grandmother. At the funeral we saw how the military gives meaning even to death, shape even to destruction, and an idealistic aura to aggression.