April 26, 2015
EASTER IV (B)
I am the Good Shepherd. – John 10: 11
Four verses prior to this one, Jesus also says, “I am the gate for the sheep.” What is He talking about? A sheepfold is a fenced-in enclosure with only one gate to go in & out. Shepherds put their sheep in them at night partly to protect them from the elements & wild animals & partly to protect them from thieves of the two-legged kind. For added protection, the shepherd would sometimes lay down & sleep across the gate, thereby actually becoming a part of the gate. In using this analogy, Jesus is once again telling us that He is the key – not just to safety, but more importantly to life, to abundant & eternal life.
A little boy went off to summer camp for the first time. His mother very carefully packed his bag containing a two-week supply of clothing & other necessities. When he came home, he was wearing three blue ribbons he had earned. When his mother asked him about them, he replied that one was for showing the most improvement in swimming. The second was for showing excellence in handicrafts. The third was for having the neatest packed bag when ready to leave for home. Knowing her little boy, the mother was astonished. She said, “Billy, I’m so proud of you!” “It was easy Mom. I never unpacked it!”
God has packed a bag for us. He has provided for all our needs, including abundant life. It’s all there, but we never unpack it. Some of us go around for weeks & months & years in the same grungy clothes. Money is not the gate, nor is controlling other people’s lives. Neither alcohol, nor sex, nor an academic degree can provide us with the key. Important as they may be in their own right, none of these qualify as the gate to life with God. If we stop to think about our own life, I think that many of us would have to admit that we have yet to make a basic decision about walking through that saving gate.
“The Road Less Travelled” is the title of a bestselling book on the Christian Life. It is written by Dr. M. Scott Peck, a Psychiatrist. In the book, Dr. Peck echoes something Jesus said again & again: passage through the gate is costly. It is not easy. It may mean letting go of old standards & values. It may mean taking certain risks. It may be refusing to conform or a change in relationships. It may mean taking on new responsibilities. Such things are a problem for some of us. We hunger for abundant life but we’re unwilling to pay the price. I for one think this has no small part to play in a reluctance to respond to vocations today. There really is no shortage of vocations today – God still gives them – it is just that the word sacrifice frightens many who have grown up in the advertising age where everything tends to focus on us & what we want.
Albert Schweitzer was a man who earned doctorates in music, medicine, & theology. He had the opportunity to become world-renowned in any of these fields, but instead he packed his bags & went to Africa as a medical missionary. He gave his life sacrificially for the people there. A friend wrote to him once & asked why he had thrown away so many opportunities in order to life his life in this way. He replied simply, “I came to Africa in obedience to Jesus.”
A boy was asked to name the four points of the compass. He replied, “But there are five: North, South, East, West, & where I am.” Wherever we may be, IF we are there in obedience to Jesus, then we have passed through the gate to abundant life. AMEN!