Easter 4A, 2020: Good Shepherd Sunday of Coronatide (John 10:1-10). St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Lake Jackson.
How many interesting stories begin with “I was cleaning my garage when…?”
So, I was cleaning my garage when I discovered a box of precious items and drawings from many years ago. It was a time capsule from my children’s childhood.
I held up a drawing scrawled in orange marker by my youngest child, Thomas, who was at the time still learning to speak and to write. He had drawn a large cross and wrote: “God loves you. You love us-es.” As I said, he was still learning to speak, so I guess he threw in an “es” on the end of “us” to make it plural?
God loves you. You love us…or “us-es.”
In our passage from John today, Jesus reminds us of an aspect of the divine flow of love with the image of the Good Shepherd and the gate, evoking unconditional love and security.
The thief and the bandit are … a thief and a bandit! The Good Shepherd’s care for the sheep is unconditional. The commitment of the Good Shepherd goes all the way from the top to the bottom, and all the way to the ends, and it never ends. There is security in the unconditional love of God — of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Whatever life brings, you are held securely in the unconditional love of God … where you will “find pasture.”
Because of the Good Shepherd you are part of the divine flow of love! “God loves you. You love us.” The dynamic of love between God the Father and Jesus spills over and gathers us.
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice.”
When we experience and know that commitment and security that is inherent in divine love, it flows out from our lives to incorporate others … even in the midst of the fears and uncertainties of our lives and this age.
This is made real for us in the Church. For, remember …
When a child or adult is washed in the waters of Baptism, not only do they become Christ’s own forever, we commit to them as well with the hearty response: “We will” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 303).
And when they come forward for Confirmation, we — as Christ’s flock — are asked again: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” Again, we respond with a robust “We will” (BCP, p. 416).
When a couple comes here seeking God’s blessing in marriage, saying “I will” to each other before God; we also make a commitment to uphold them with a hearty “We will” (BCP, p. 425).
These are just three of the seven sacraments in which the unconditional love of the Good Shepherd flows out and among Christ’s community. Just three examples of the unlimited number of avenues for grace that create space to bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another’s mistakes … and to live into resurrection every day, asking:
How might we love and care for one another, centered in the unconditional love of God?
As receivers of the divine flow of love, how might we share and show the self-giving love of the Good Shepherd?
Right now, that looks like: stay at home. Washing your hands. Wearing a mask. Making masks for others. Calling and checking on loved ones, neighbors, those you know who are alone. Giving money and food to the Food Basket. I bet you’re already doing some of these things and can think of many more!
So, back to cleaning my garage … as I stood, holding Thomas’ drawing in my dusty hands, my husband came into the garage and announced: You should have some music and set the portable sound dock on shuffle.
I returned the drawing to the box and continued my work. I’m not sure how long it was before a song caught my attention, as an appropriate companion to Thomas’ drawing “God loves you. You love us-es.”
It is a country western song performed by Tracy Lawrence. The refrain is this:
You find out who your friends are
Somebody’s gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas, get there fast
Never stop to think ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘it’s way too far’
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who your friends are
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has brought us into the divine flow of love. He calls us friends and makes us friends, secure under the banner of unconditional love.
God loves you
Reach out virtually in all the ways that you can, remembering your hearty “we will” …
and love all the “us-es” in your lives.