John 10: 11-18
Many designate the fourth Sunday of Easter as Good Shepherd Sunday. Today’s Gospel text and the 23rd Psalm provide a profound image of Jesus, the incarnation of God as the Word made flesh, as the good shepherd for the children of Earth.
Through our modern-day lens, we often underestimate the role of shepherd. It is a thankless job. It requires a deep and abiding love for the sheep. Being a shepherd involves a commitment that goes way beyond a casual relationship. It includes a selfless willingness to give up one’s life for the flock.
The word, kalos—translated as “good” shepherd—means more than the opposite of “bad” in its original language. The word also means “model.” Jesus is not only a good shepherd but also a model shepherd for us.
In a few short verses, this parable represents the depth Jesus willingly pursues on behalf of God’s people. It upholds the communal nature of the call to discipleship. It highlights the inclusive nature of Jesus’s invitation to all who will listen. It implies the role of disciple in following Jesus’ model of sacrificial service for the sake of all.
Jesus invites everyone into relationship with the Divine and one another at all costs. “God yearns to draw you close…” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a). Ultimately, we decide whether to accept the invitation.
Therefore, to hear the invitation we have to be open and listening. We have to engage in opportunities that allow us to hear the voice of God. It also means we have to center on Christ so we can recognize and discern Christ’s invitation from the other voices calling out to us (see “Hark! The Voice of Jesus Calling” CCS 592).
We live in a busy world where there are many demands for our attention. In our busyness, we become tired, discouraged, misguided, and lost. Today’s scripture reminds us the good shepherd is always calling our names, trying to keep us on track, providing support and encouragement, and inviting us into relationship with him and others of the faith community.
Mission begins when we encounter the Divine. Mission is relational—our encounters with God draw us into relationship with the Divine and then with others. Authentic relationships with God and one another provide the foundation for journeying together in discernment and mission. To be able to hear Christ’s voice both individually and collectively, we need to create opportunities for encounter and relationship building. Shared spiritual practices within the body help “the flock” stay connected with one another and the shepherd.
Too often we see spiritual formation as something private and individual. This parable reminds us of the communal nature of discipleship and discernment. When we work together to hear Christ’s voice, we are better able to discover God’s purposes for the Earth and our part as a congregation to help bring about God’s vision of shalom. Shared spiritual practices provide discipline to our communal centering and listening.
Hearing Christ’s voice disrupts our lives. We recognize opportunities around us where we can help resolve injustice and brokenness. We are drawn—individually and collectively—out of our routines and comfort zones and into Christ’s mission. Jesus, our model of the good shepherd, sends us to be the good shepherd for others.
Community of Christ Worship Helps 4/19/2015