Lectionary blog on John 10:11-18
Text for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 29, 2012
Remember when you were a child in Sunday school surrounded by paintings of shepherds on a hillside full of fluffy, white sheep, grazing contentedly? Didn’t you long to romp amongst them and pet their wool?
How about a picture in your children’s Bible showing a snow-white lamb wrapped around the shoulders of an attentive shepherd? Don’t you love the image of Jesus as our shepherd amid his pretty flock? It makes you feel good about yourself and your relationship with Jesus, doesn’t it?
Well, guess what? Sheep are ugly, filthy, smelly, stupid, stubborn animals. Now, put yourself in that image and picture Jesus slinging you over his shoulder or sleeping alongside you or singing to you, and — dare I say it? — loving you!
Deep down we too are ugly, filthy, smelly, stupid and stubborn. And yet, Jesus comes to us with his staff and comforts us, feeds us, protects and loves us despite our shortcomings.
God wants a relationship with us so much that God is willing to take us as we are. What did we do to deserve that?
We are ugly in the way we speak to and think of others or turn our eyes from those in need. We are filthy with sin, breaking every commandment almost every day, much as we try not to. We are smelly with the material things of this earth that we must accumulate and indulge in. We are stupid, thinking that we are in control of our lives and that our worrying about everything — big and small — has merit and makes one bit of difference in a situation.
God must be truly disappointed in our inability to place everything in his outstretched hands! We are stubborn, refusing to talk to God when we are in our deepest need and not listening to his answers when we finally do talk to him.
But thanks be to God, God really, really loves us. God sacrificed his beloved Son to bring us into that relationship, to wash us clean and turn us into the fluffy, white lambs in the pictures. God does not fixate on our sin, he just forgives it. God suffers our stupidity while gently nudging us to listen to his beloved Son in the Scripture and words of sermons. He comes to us in the bread and wine of the sacrament, reminding us that we are forgiven and deeply loved.
When our earthly lives are through, we will permanently trade the ugliness that we are for the beauty that God sees in us.
Bless us, dear Shepherd, for we have sinned …
- In what way does God transform your life from a life of sin to a life of grace?
- How does Christ shepherd your life toward deeper faith and hope?
- In what way does your congregation shepherd the lives of all God’s children — the lovely and the less lovely?
Jeff Wesley has been a member of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Springfield, Pa., since 1969 and raised three sons there. She taught Sunday school for 20 years, chaired the youth committee and was an adult counselor for three ELCA Youth Gathering trips. She has been altar guild vice president, choir mother, children’s sermon giver, a member of the congregation council and many committees, belonged to several choirs and served as worship assistant in various capacities. Her current ambition is to crash the men’s breakfast!