Reflections

Fourth Sunday of Easter

 

Readings: Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:19-25

John 10:1-10

 

The Good Shepherd

The Gospel reading calls to mind the shepherd imagery in the Gospels – and today we hear  one of the great “I AM” sayings by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.

In John’s Gospel, these “I AM” sayings refer back to God in the Hebrew Scriptures and, specifically to one of the foundational stories of the Bible – that of the encounter with God that Moses experiences in Exodus 3:1-5, 13-15 – (and so to the divinity of Christ.)

The name that God gives Moses can be translated, ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I will be who I will be’, or ‘I cause to be what I cause to be’ – (it is difficult to know because there is no present tense of the verb, ‘to be’ in the Hebrew language)

 

What is clear, though, is that the term certainly has to do with the nature of BEING.

 

Naming is significant - think of the naming of a new born child and how parents can struggle – and think today of the names of ‘celebrity’ children!

 

In the ancient world, it was thought that the word used to name could convey its meaning onto a child and e.g., Sophie, from the Greek for ‘wisdom’ – and stress family lineage e.g., ‘Benjamin’ ‘ben’ meaning – ‘son of’ in Hebrew.

 

To quote Sigmund Freud in 1915:

 

‘Words were originally magic and to this day words have retained much of their ancient magical power. By words one person can make another blissfully happy or drive him to despair, by words the teacher conveys his knowledge to his pupils, by words the orator carries his audience with him and determines their judgements and decisions. Words provoke affects and are in general the means of mutual influence among men.’

 

If, then, names carry meaning and power – how can we give a name to God?

 

Meditation

Read Ex 3:1-5, 13-15

Consider:

‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. (my emphasis)

 

Reflect:

The ground on which I am standing is holy ground - the ground of BEING, of which we are all a part.

 

What do you hear –

 

About yourself?

About your neighbour?

About God?

 

                                                          --------------------------------

 

The idea of God as shepherd of his people again refers us back to the Hebrew Scriptures and references to God as being the shepherd of Israel and also to the Prophets, particularly Ezekiel where the leaders of the people are condemned for being bad shepherds – that is, they are accused of feeding themselves and not the sheep:

 

cf Ezekiel 34:4:

 

‘You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.’

 

Not so with Jesus, as we see in Luke 15:1-7 – the well-known parable of ‘The Lost sheep’

 

If a parable needs to be explained, it has failed, so read carefully – and do not jump to conclusions – remember that ‘holy ground’.

 

Luke 15:4 –

 

‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?’

 

The answer I would suggest is ‘None of us!’

 

For, no-one would leave 99 sheep wandering in the wilderness to seek for the one missing one that has probably come to a sticky end, anyway.

 

So what might this parable mean?

 

I wonder if that lost sheep (like the lost/prodigal son) is a reference to the free-spirited part of ourselves – like a child chasing a butterfly – so caught by the attraction that it is heedless to all else - that child-like part of us that we have maybe ‘lost’ along the way?

 

Go back to Luke 15:1 and see the preamble to the telling of this parable:

 

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them,” So Jesus told them this parable…….

 

We can all too easily deny the totality of our being – all too easily deny the totality of our communities – all too easily fall in with ‘bad shepherds’, ruling with force and harshness those aspects of ourselves and one another that we find difficult and so try to lose.

 

‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ (my italics)

 

Find that which is lost and you, too, will come home rejoicing!

 

Strayed sheep by William Holman Hunt

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:                                                                            He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:                                                                                                                              He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:                  for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:                                        thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:                                       and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SS            2/5/20

 

ps please note that the above is not fully referenced as it is sent to congregation members for personal use only!