theunfamiliarname

Homily for Easter 4A

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2014 at 2:02 am

On reflection it struck me

that I’ve been short-changing you on the “jokes” front lately. During the week I found

the self-described

“number one source of sheep related puns on the internet”, so here we go.

 

Now, a shepherd likes a quiet night.

When none of the sheep

need to be ushered back into the paddock.

At night, no ewes is good ewes.

 

If one does escape,

the shepherd will go and bring it back.

When it’s dark, that’s known as re-ewe-nighting.

Being so dark, some have suggested

re-ewe-nighting-lighting,

by using more rural lamb posts.

 

A “lamb post”, of course,

could be thought of in rambassadorial terms,

a sheep sent to the Ewe Ian (UN).

“Ian” is a very unusual name to give to a ewe, but still…

Sheep who have the opportunity to travel,

as North Otago’s history will attest,

prefer to do so by sea.

And of course,

they like to make sure everything is absolutely sheep shape.

 

I’ve got them all here, “The Wolf of Wool St”,

“Sheep of fools”, “woolly jumpers”,

“The Shaun Identity”

they start to get pretty weak after that.

 

You’ve made it this far, no doubt, by shear determination.

 

Well, the fourth Sunday in Easter each year

presents us with sheepy imagery.

This year, we have a glimpse of Jesus as Shepherd,

and by virtue of that,

the ancient image that we are somehow sheep-like.

But also that unique image of Jesus as the Gate.

 

Throughout John’s Gospel,

Jesus makes a series of profound “I am” statements.

The whole “I am” idea itself

points us back to the burning bush,

and Moses being told God’s name, “I am who I am”.

But Jesus chooses to reveal who he is to us

in these statements:

I am the living water

I am the bread of life

I am the Resurrection and the life, and others.

But this morning “I am the gate for the sheep.”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a gate

doesn’t quite have the same poetry or profundity

as some of the other “I am” statements Jesus makes.

 

We know about gates.

They’re functional.

A bit rusty sometimes.

Some take more effort to shift or to shut

than they rightly deserve.

 

But Jesus isn’t comparing himself

to a farm gate as we know it,

he’s talking to farming people

who know about a different scale of stock to us,

where you know each one of the animals, by name,

and by names more meaningful than “Mint Sauce”.

Where the flock and the shepherd were an odd sort of family.

And the shepherd was, quite literally, the gate.

 

At night, when the flock was gathered up,

it was pastured somewhere safe,

where wolves and thieves couldn’t pick them off.

And the shepherd made his bed across the entrance,

so if you wanted to get out or some sort of predator

wanted to get in, the shepherd would know about it.

That’s the image Jesus uses.

“I am the gate for the sheep”.

 

Protection. Knowledge. Care.      If we’re sheep,

and that’s the image the Bible uses for us, often,

we are offered a place where we can be safe,

and if we stray or if predators come near,

we’re told that Jesus

is in that place of encounter or danger with us.

 

God in Jesus our Shepherd is with us in all these things.

Beside still waters,

in the valley of the shadow of death,

in the presence of our foes,

in Christ Jesus, God is there. The gate.

Making it meaningful, making it bearable, making it holy.

 

Illuminating all of it with resurrection light.

 

Like last week on the road to Emmaus,

Jesus is alongside us.

When all seems dark and done-with,

Jesus opens the gate of glory.

We are an Easter people.

We are standing in resurrection light today,

but in a very real sense

we’re still dealing with the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Jesus the Shepherd, the Gate

is there to make sure nothing fearful interrupts

our going out and our coming in.

 

There’s nothing unreliable or mis-hanging about this gate,

and we can trust for ourselves

and for those we place in God’s hands

that the pathway to God’s eternity

and the gate to God’s glory and light and love

is held open for us by the Saviour who has journeyed through all pain and passion to declare emphatically

that God-is-with-us, Emmanuel,

and that as he lives, we shall too.

 

The sheep of his flock, the people of his pasture.

Life, and in abundance. Today, and into eternity.

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