Fourth Sunday of Easter (A) John 10:1-10 April 13, 2008
Thinking about this story that Jesus gives us in the Gospel of John, I came up with my own little modern day parable. My good parents: When they would come home and I was sitting alone in the house, this is what would happen…
Fist, when they would come home they enter through the garage. Why the garage…? Because they had the garage door opener of course. And then after hearing some car door slams, it would take only a couple of seconds before I would hear the inside door open, simultaneously the garage door would close again, and then I would hear Mom’s voice declare, “We’re home.”
Now, who can say how many times this sequence of events took place over the years? To tell the truth, until just now, I never really even thought about it that much. But it’s true; this routine (as it is in many of your homes), this very common situation has been repeated hundreds and thousands of times. It happened so often for me that I can even remember not even remembering whether they had come home or not—so commonplace—such a routine pattern in my life—so a part of my usual environment… The common sounds of the trusted parents entering in the usual way.
But here’s the thing…, change one thing, and then I would have surely noticed. Say Mom and Dad decided one day to come in a different door…, not unheard of, but I certainly would have noticed the change. If mom’s voice had been a different voice, surely then I would have taken notice. This would have been cause for alarm.
Now, the reason I’m telling you this is because of this parable that we just listened to. The parable of the “Good Shepherd.” Looking at this story with fresh eyes, what strikes me most about it—the chief point of the illustration Jesus is giving us—is how unremarkable it is. Jesus calls himself the “good shepherd” and then proceeds to describe the established pattern of a shepherd and his sheep. The Shepherd enters through the front gate, because the gatekeeper knows him. The key for us here is to understand this parable describes an established relationship—also a very familiar and routine sort of occurrence.
Now, I didn’t always understand this parable in quite this way.
In fact, This story used to worry me quite a bit. When Jesus talks about his sheep knowing his voice, I used to say to myself, “I wonder if I will recognize his voice when he calls? What if I don’t recognize his voice?”
In my mind I would make this story into something like the scene from Indiana Jones and the Holy grail—You know the scene were there are all of these goblets—thousands of them—and Indiana Jones has to pick the right one to drink from. But choose poorly and you drink poison and you die.
That’s what I would do with this story. Everyone knows the world is full of all these voices, and as Christians we’ve got to choose the right one. If we’re really Christian—if we really belong to Jesus—we would use our special and miraculous intuition to know the voice of God.
But that is not what this is all about. This is not the story of the miraculous recognition of Christ by his brilliant and/or fancy sheep. No, the sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice, not because the sheep are amazing sheep…, but simply because they know him. They are familiar with him. The reason the sheep recognize their shepherd and are not afraid of him, is because he comes to them in the usual way, the unremarkable way, the same way he always does—right through the front door.
Brothers and sisters, this is so important for us to understand, because right now our wider church is having a faith crisis. And not just our church, but especially our younger people. They are struggling. Since I have come here to Sidney we have had too many tragedies involving young folks with no guidance, no direction, no shepherd. I believe that this story contains the unremarkable solution to our faithless generations who are coming down the road.
The parable describes a shepherd tending his sheep. As I said, this is not a miracle story, but a story of routine—a pattern of relationship. It seems that we are missing, in many instances, that life giving pattern. It seems that somehow many among us have come to expect faith to come in some miraculous way, rather than the same way that faith has always come to God’s people… through the spoken word. It seems like people expect faith to be awakened and confirmed in people who have never heard the gospel spoken to them.
Deuteronomy 6:6—“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.”
In our first reading today from Acts we heard about the community of Christians who had been baptized, and then what happened? They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Brothers and Sisters, we are Lutherans; we are by name and heritage the reforming branch of the Christian church. During his own era, Martin Luther rebelled against the church of his time, for this very reason…and this was the central reason for the reformation—because the Word of God—the good news about God was not being spoken—rather it was being suppressed. And he called on the people of the Church to reclaim the good news about our Father in heaven who loves us, and his Son who is the one sent to guide us into a relationship with God.
One of Martin Luther’s major and most practical Church reforms was his call for heads of households (lay people) to instruct their children and servants (using the Small Catechism which Luther himself provided) in matters of faith. He understood “the church” to be synonymous with the “universal priesthood of all believers;” and the tasks of the faithful Christian…, the very ministry of the church—the proclamation of the Word of God through word and deed.
Brothers and sisters the center of our faith and our ministry as a church is like this parable—it’s really very simple, very ordinary…very usual: Salvation and hope comes through faith, and faith comes through an encounter with the Word of God.
That’s how faith works – Jesus comes right through the front door (in the usual way), the gate keeper opens the door in recognition of the good shepherd. Brothers and sisters, like it or not, the gate keeper is in this story is “the church.” Mom and Dad’s, friends and neighbors, the church is you. You don’t need to have a remarkable faith or a miracle story to tell, just the willingness to share whatever faith you have—and share it in love.
For if we don’t tell them, how will they know the way?
Very simple, very usual, very true. Brothers and Sisters, Not only is Jesus Christ the Shepherd, who provides for our needs, and brings us abundant life, he says that he is also the gate. He is the way to a deeper relationship with God, our heavenly Father. He opens to us a life of prayer and hopefulness. He gives us peace in the midst of the storm. He comes to us so that we might have life, and have it abundantly.
Pastor Joshua Magyar
418 W. Main St.
Sidney, MT 59270