Sunday, April 22, 2018

Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd”

         Have you ever thought for a bit about what the Gospel writer is claiming about Jesus today
—have you thought about what it means that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd!”
What does it mean that Jesus says “I AM”? 
What does it mean that he is Good? 
What does it mean that he’s a shepherd? 
And of course, we’re not just throwing up an abstract concept on a blackboard here, what does it mean for each of us, for me and (deacon) and for little Luchiano, who we are about to baptize?
         What does it mean that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”?

What does it mean that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”?
         When Jesus says “I Am”which happens frequently in John’s Gospel—he’s saying a lot more than those two tiny words would indicate
—he’s pointing back in scripture to the answer God gave to Moses when Moses asked, “Who should I say is sending me?” Essentially, “What’s your name?” 
To which God responds, “I AM that I AM!”
         God is the only being who can say “I am” and type a period at the end of that sentence.
I need to say, “I am … because of my mom and dad, and my doctors and teachers and pastors and coaches and professors and parishioners and… so on.” Right, there is a whole line of contingency and connection that has led me to be who I am…
But this God of ours, the one who answered Moses, “I AM that I AM” is
the start from which everything springs,
the center of which all that is, seen and unseen, swirls around on account of God’s gravitational pull.

         The Great I AM is the one from whom all good comes.
The Great I AM gives this universe both dynamism and stability
—we can change, and yet there are universal standards upon which change can occur
—we can evolve, and our subatomic particles or quarks or strings or whatever word we want to use to describe the smallest part of a thing
—they don’t randomly part ways or wink out of existence
—because the Great I AM, holds it all in solid but open hands.
And here we have, throughout John’s Gospel—Jesus Identified as the Great I AM.
As we were talking about in Bible Study on Thursday, there is a whole school of thought in the Old Testament that believe observing the world can help us get a glimpse of God’s nature
—creation itself a canvas that says something about the creator…
well, John is saying something even more miraculous
—seeing Jesus, we can see the Great I AM.

What does it mean that Jesus is said to be “Good”?
Jesus is neither hired hand nor wolf.
A hired hand does not own the sheep
—there isn’t that intimate connection between sheep and shepherd
… when things go bad the hired hand won’t claim their beloved sheep
—no the hired hand will abandon, will act the coward, ultimately will not care…
Will not care when wolves come—grizzly maw wiped with blood—terrifying presence—sent to scatter and devour the sheep…

What’s that even mean?What does it mean to be scattered…
scattered people, scattered churches, scattered souls…
Have you ever been scattered?You were so distracted you entered a room… only to have no clue why you were there?
Or in the car thinking so far into the future you don’t notice you don’t have the right of way…
Have you ever been scattered?So often seemingly small things can scatter a congregation or a Church, distrust can be sewn over stupid simple stuff.
Have you ever been scattered?Sometimes it feels like our society is training us not to be a society—but instead an anti-social bunch, tribal, suspicious, and skeptical of everyone all the time.
What does it mean to be scattered—well, I think that’s an appropriate description of Sin—That which separates us from God or neighbor
—that which breaks relationship
—that is Sin, and I fear if we trust hired hands we will be consumed by sin.

But friends, we can trust Jesus Christ… he loves us! He loves us so much that he will lay down his life for us
—as we see in John’s Gospel not one disciples is taken when he hands himself over to the police at the garden of gethsemane…
He sees Sin, that wolf, coming and does not allow his sheep to be consumed by it, but instead he is consumed by the cross on our behalf.
Not only that, we can trust him to take up again that life of his. He rises from the dead, that we may follow. 
He is taken up again and ascends to the I AM, that we all have access to the I AM as a loving parent… he takes up his life again that we might have life with him on account of being baptized in him.

What does it mean that Jesus is the “Shepherd”?
The Shepherd of the sheep
—critters that from the most ancient of times have been used to describe the subjects of a king
…living among smelly critters that head butt
… critters that from a distance you can’t distinguish from Goats
… critters that seem to be most in their element in a group, not alone, for when they are alone they are lost…
Well—if we share characteristics with sheep… then, I suppose, we’re ambiguous to our core—saint and sinner simultaneously
we have a propensity to wound, even our shepherd…
we are not meant to go through this all alone, without community…
It also means our shepherd lays claim to us in a fundamental way.
         He gathers us from far and wide. His voice calls us in, from every corner of the earth
… continually calling us, this Shepherd, who knows us and we know him
—who is connected to us like blood to a vein,
love letter to the beloved,
sun to heat.
One flock, one Shepherd.

         And Luchiano, you’ve been in need of both stability and change… (RIFF)
I’m sure you will face that scattering that wolves bring and hired hands cannot handle…
I’m sure you will yearn for community in times of isolation…
In baptism you will be gathered into the community of Christ,
gathered in from Sin despite all scattering,
weaved into the fabric of the Weaver, the Great I Am, whose face we find in Jesus.
         Luchiano, know that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” That Jesus is the I Am, Jesus is Good, Jesus is ourShepherd, your Shepherd.