Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Shepherd's Community by Pastor Bettye

May 15, 2011
John 10:1 – 10
The Shepherd’s Community
Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the name of the one who calls us to live with him in community, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I know my dress size. I know what fits and feels best on my person. However, depending upon which mirror I look in, some clothes look different on me then others. I know that when I try on clothes at one ladies boutique their mirrors make me appear a certain way; at another boutique another way. Different mirrors reflect different images. They are all images of me, I just see myself differently through these varying mirrors. I bring up this idea of how and what we see as an introduction today’s Gospel in order to address John’s image of the Good Shepherd.
Each of the Gospels in the New Testament brings us a view, a picture of the character of Jesus. In Bible study class I have e asked the question, “Which presentation of the character of Jesus resonates most with you?” Each gospel text offers the listen a different view of our incarnate Savior – not opposing – just different. I for one am especially warmed by the Gospel according to John which gives us the vision Jesus as the good shepherd. I am especially warned by the views in John’s Gospel that we are a community lovingly tended by the Good Shepherd.
The writer of John’s Gospel uses a shepherd metaphor for the Old Testament and ascribes it to Jesus, the Incarnate One. John, chapter ten read this fourth Sunday of Easter portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes for a good shepherd. A good shepherd will intimately shepherd a community of people providing protection and identity for God’s own. This view of Jesus and his relationship with the community he loves is fully realized in this season of Easter as the good shepherds lays down his life for his sheep. In doing so the good shepherd gives new life to a new community.
Jesus is the one we follow, the one we know and trust. He is the one who is called to ensure the safety of the community he loves. The idea of community is a central thought with the writer of John’s gospel. Jesus restores Lazarus to community; the writer of John portrays Jesus as one with a community as seen in the vision of the vines and the branches. The gospel according to John continues to show us a Jesus and our placement, our part in a community of faith; the flock whom he gathered together and prevented from scattering.
This view of the intimate relationship Jesus seeks with us in a community is one we care called to holed hear and to emulate Jesus. The Spirit of God gathers, enlightens and protects us in community and gives us the charge to maintain that community to the glory of God. We are sheep who often go astray, who would follow each other off of a cliff if we take our eyes off of our good shepherd. We are also the beloved of God given the call by our good shepherd to take the responsibility of community as part of our life style. In the closing verses of the gospel according to John Jesus turn to Peter and tells him to “feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”. Peter, the rock of the church, is given direction to form a new community in the form of the church. In ACTS we hear of this new community:
Acts 2:42-47 (New International Version)
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The Good Shepherd calls us to join him in community. Later today we will celebrate the community called Grace of God as she takes her first steps out into the worlds as an organized, incorporated community whose Good Shepherd is Jesus Christ. She bears the same message of salvation which this community does. She claims the same God, the same mission, the same Savior, the same Good Shepherd. Jesus will protect, love and tend this new community as he does others gathered in his name and to God’s glory. Together we are called to be a community of believers sharing the Good News of the Good Shepherd!

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