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A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

I have, as you likely have, heard more sermons on the tenth chapter of John than almost any other…, as we read portions of it each year on “Good Shepherd” Sunday. That, I know, can make hearing this text challenging, as we wonder what new element might speak to us and our congregations. But every once in a while, something completely new jumps out of a familiar passage, grabs your attention, and makes you wonder why you hadn’t noticed it before. And that’s what happened this week…

So here it is: amid Jesus’ discourse on being “the good shepherd,” what jumped out to me this time was Jesus’ simply but bold assertion that, “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.” Have you ever noticed that before? Or, more than notice it, have you ever given much thought to its theological implications?

What strikes me is that, quite simply, Jesus isn’t done yet. Despite his healings, despite his preaching, despite all that he had already done and planned to do, Jesus isn’t done yet. He still has more sheep to reach, sheep that are not in this fold. By extension, I’d suggest that God isn’t done yet, either. And this matters for at least three reasons.


First, God continues to call people from all walks of life, from every nation on the face of the earth, and from each and every generation across the nearly two thousand years since Jesus first uttered those words until today. If that were not true, you and I would not have come to faith and we certainly would not be giving our lives to the task and the joy of the Gospel.


Second, God is at work in our midst and through us and our congregations to extend the invitation to abundant life offered by the Good Shepherd. We probably know that, but does our church community know that? Do they imagine, that is, that God is using their lives and words to invite others to faith? Can they imagine that simply by praying for someone or inviting someone to church they might be the vessel by which God continues to reach out and embrace God’s beloved sheep from beyond this fold? Perhaps kindling their imagination might prepare them to be equipped to do just that.

Third, all those who will one day constitute Jesus’ flock are beyond our imagining. There is a tremendous expansiveness to Jesus’ statement here, and we do not know – for neither Jesus nor John tells us – just what are the limits of the fold Jesus describes. All we know is that Jesus – and therefore God – isn’t done yet. Jesus is still calling, God is still searching, and in time we will all be, as Jesus says, one flock under one shepherd.


I think this third point is the one that most animates my imagination, because I know more and more people who are worried about friends and family members who no longer go to church, who don’t necessarily identify as Christian anymore, or who have married people of other faiths. And while I don’t think a sermon in church on a Sunday morning is the best place to hash out the merits of a universalist versus particularist view of salvation, I do think we can say with confidence that God is not done yet, that God works in ways beyond our imagining to bring together one flock, and that Jesus Christ’s mercy and grace are for all.


What makes me bold to proclaim these promises even though I don’t know for sure the fate of the various people you and I and our people are concerned about? Just this: Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one who laid down his life for the sheep – all the sheep! – and who was raised to life once again, validating his sacrifice and promise. Which means, I think, that while we may not know all that God has in mind for those who have followed different paths, I nevertheless trust them all to the mercy and grace of the Good Shepherd.


So perhaps this week, we might name some of the anxieties we harbor and concerns we hold regarding those who have left the faith, or seem on the edge of our community, or have not heard of or yet believed in the good news of God’s grace. And, having named them, perhaps we might also pray for them, praying that God would work in us and through us to share the abundant life we’ve experienced. But we might also pray that we grow to trust to God the fate of all God’s children and sheep simply because of the faith God showed in us by sending the Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for us and all people out of nothing other than sheer, abiding, and eternal love. Thanks to be God.


-         The Rev. David Lose from “God Is Not Done Yet!”

 

MAY GOD’S BLESSING ABOUND ALL THE MORE – IN 2024!

 

May God Bless you and yours in this EASTER SEASON…

And throughout The Year!           

May God’s Spirit empower us to

“expect great things from God and to attempt great things for God”…                   and

May God Continue to Bless Union Church!

 

-Pastor Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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