Rev. Deacon Tom Bates
April 22, 2018
LINK TO PDF VERSION (Good for saving or printing out)
“I have other sheep that are not of this pen.”
Yesterday’s news covered the funeral of Barbara Bush. It was very much a celebration of a good life and everyone that spoke said good things about her. The Episcopal Church of St. Martin’s in Houston was packed. George W. Bush was there of course as were the Clintons and the Obama’s. In this time of political strife, I was pleased to know that those families were close. George Bush Senior considered Bill Clinton as his fifth son for example. The priest’s sermon was excellent because of Barbara Bush’s relationship with God and his relationship with Barbara Bush and the stories that he told about her. It made me think about my own mother’s funeral earlier this month. She too had a close personal relationship with God and her pastor. Her pastor, with our concurrence, picked a passage from Philippians that he thought best described my mother and preached on it in celebrating her life. I had recorded with her, her favorite Bible readings and hymns and some of those were included. Hospice was wonderful. They set up a hospital bed in the living room so my brother, sister, grandchildren and I were with 24 7 and she died in peace. She was 98 years old almost 99.
Today is the Forth Sunday of Easter and today we return to the Gospel of John. Today is called Good Shepherd Sunday because of today’s Gospel reading and because this is the image that Jesus uses to describe his relationship to us, the sheep. What does the image of the Good Shepherd remind you of? Ï am the Good Shepherd; the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Does the first image remind you of the Paschal mystery we are still celebrating? Do you get a second image from the Gospel Reading? Ï am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me in the same way that the Father knows me and I know the Father; for these sheep, I will give my life.” Think about that statement for a moment. Jesus knows us and we know Jesus just the same as Jesus knows God and God knows Jesus. Wow! Even though we’ve heard it many times before, it’s still amazing to me. I believe that knowing God means that we have heard His call, believe His word and are doing His will.
You will recall that we are in Church Year B. In Church Year A, the Gospel readings come from Matthew, in Church Year B, from Mark and John because Mark is so short, and in Church year C, from Luke. I said today we return to the Gospel of John and we will stay with John through the Easter Season. So what was the Gospel reading last Sunday? Jesus appears to the disciples behind locked doors as explained in the Gospel of Luke. Why Luke? So Sarah could give her wonderful sermon. Other than that I have no idea. What happens in the Gospel of Luke right before the story of Jesus appearing to the disciple behind locked doors? Jesus appears to two travelers on the road to Emmaus. And who were the two travelers? One was Cleopas, the other unidentified. I’ve never had a clue as to the unidentified, but Megan McKenna who says all stories are true, some actually happened, says that most exegetes believe that the other disciple on the road to Emmaus was Mary of Cleopas, the wife of Cleopas; the blood sister of Mary the mother of Jesus; one of the four at the foot of the cross in the Gospel of John, and one of the women who went to the empty tomb on Easter morning. I find that helpful in understanding the reading on the resurrection.
Later in the Gospel Reading we are reminded by Jesus that the Father loves Jesus for laying down his life for us and we are called to follow Jesus, laying down our lives for others. What does that mean? Have you had the opportunity to listen to the remarks of the candidates for bishop of the Rio Grande during their walk-abouts? I find it interesting that all three see the laity as the front lines for ministry. They see their role as support. We the clergy are suppose to do the same thing, support the laity. And what is the laity, and clergy, suppose to do? Be good people, follow the teachings of Jesus, love our neighbors, be Matthew 25 Christians, feed the poor, tend the sick, etc. and love God. Canon Michael Hunn used the image from Psalm one. We are to be like trees planted by streams of water bearing fruit in due seasons and standing upright for justice. Or maybe that was how he was going to do Matthew 25. Listen to his interview at the Cathedral. Listen to all three; they are well worth the time.
We don’t necessarily have to preach to minister, but we do have to live Christ like lives and we should still invite people to church. Jesus reminds us that he has other sheep that do not belong to this fold. He says, “I must lead them too, and they shall hear my voice. There shall be one flock then, one shepherd”. So we also are being called to be good shepherds in the world, drawing everyone together into community and unity and working to preserve the oneness of God.
There is wisdom from Mother Teresea on how to help us be more Christ like. We’ve probably heard it before, but on the wall in Mother Teresea’s home for children in Calcuta was found the following:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some faithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years in creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of Peter trying to explain to onlookers that a cripple that they see before them, now made whole and restored, was cured in the name of Jesus, crucified and raised from the dead. To me the important part of the reading from Acts is that Peter gave the credit to Jesus rather than to himself and John. I do see God’s hand in the transformation of Peter. Peter is very much filled with the Holy Spirit. Imagine saying the rulers and elders that the man healed today was done in the name of Jesus whom they crucified and whom God raised from the dead. He is the stone you builders rejected which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved. That took courage. Remember Steven was stoned to death for saying pretty much the same thing. Even the rulers and elders were impressed by the courage of Peter and John – even more so because they were unschooled, ordinary men.
I also see God’s hand in the circumstances surrounding the healing. The healing took place at one of the gates to the temple at an hour of prayer so there were a lot of people who witnessed the healing and who knew this man who had been crippled since birth, saw him jumping around and heard Peter’s sermon on who healed him and who Jesus was. And because so many people were witnesses, and because Peter preached so effectively, many believed and it was difficult for the rulers and elders to punish Peter and John.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that love is only force that can make things one without destroying them. This is the work of the good shepherd and our work. As John’s letter reveals, we are all children of God, concerned about the other children of God. With the power of the Holy Spirit in us, grounded in the word of God, we can do the will of God. We can be the ministers our future bishop wants us to be, no matter which of the three it happens to be.
“I have other sheep that are not of this pen.”