[Jesus said to some of the Pharisees gathered there:] 1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run away because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
When fear and worry consume us,
When doubt and anxiety overtake us,
When we feel lost in the valley of the shadow of death,
Call our name.
Lead us beside your still waters, and make us rest securely.
Restore our souls. Lead us to life.
Church, similar to last week, I want to give you a question or two for reflection. I’d like for you to write these down and sit with them and pray about them, think about them. And if you feel like sharing, put a comment up on Facebook, or comment on youtube, or send me an email. I’m really just trying to offer you something more and something deeper for your personal devotions or spiritual reflections.
This week, I’m wondering, what voices do you hear?
What voices are competing for your attention?
And what voices are you listening to and giving weight to?
What is the voice of Jesus saying to you in these times?
I want to encourage you to reflect on those questions this week.
Write them, journal with them, meditate on them.
What voices are you listening to?
When we were much younger, my sister and I got a trampoline from Santa one Christmas. I don’t know about my sister, but I personally think it was a consolation present because what I really wanted was a swimming pool. And I guess trampolines are just a lot cheaper than pools…
Anyway, we enjoyed it. We jumped the heck out of that thing. Flips, jumps, trying to see who could double-bounce the other… The occasional twisted ankle or trampoline burn. The first time I ever got stitches was when I busted my chin open on my knee. There were a few legs put through the springs around the outside. Miraculously, only got bounced completely off a couple of times…
Many years later, some of our friends and neighbors have trampolines now. They haven’t really gone out of style. But they have this new thing that seems to come standard now that I don’t think they had back when we had ours. It’s like a netting…have you seen this…? So there are poles around the outside of the trampoline with a net that goes all the way around…I guess to prevent young ones from flying off the side…although, my experience shows that’s pretty unlikely… You know…safety I guess… And similar to the old school ball pits at Chuck E. Cheese or Discovery Zone or any of those places, there’s a place in the netting for you to go in and out.
One way in. And one way out.
I think of those trampoline nets when I hear Jesus talking about gathering sheep into the sheepfold this morning. The sheep are gathered together into a place to keep them safe. There’s a gate. One way in, and one way out. The sheep follow Jesus for safety.
And the sheep know the shepherd’s voice.
When I would inevitably be caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, often on that trampoline, I’d hear a sharp, “Chris!”—*oop*— didn’t mean to get caught… It was always strange to me how I would never hear the door open, no other indication that I was about to be scolded, often by my dad, always just my name. And if was something really bad, or magnificently stupid, I got the full name treatment: “Christian! What the heck are you doing?!?”
And now, with an almost-9-month old, I’m beginning to learn the art of the parent-voice.
You know the one I’m talking about. You’ve used this voice.
You know this voice.
It’s the voice that inevitably catches you when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.
But it’s also the same voice that holds you in their arms, rocks you gently, scratches your back, and tells you how much they love you…how you mean everything in the world to them…
You know this voice…
“The sheep hear this voice…and they follow because they know this voice…”
The sheep know this voice of love. This voice of safety. This voice of protection.
The truth is, church, we have many different voices competing for our attention these days.
They sound like fear. They sound like worry, and anxiety, and scarcity, and doubt. These voices tell you to do silly things like hoard toilet paper, close in even tighter than before and close yourself off from everything and everyone. These voices urge us to do these things in the name of security and safety, but what it actually does is seal us off from one another so that we can’t hear—or we choose not to hear—when our neighbor is hurting or in trouble.
Now, don’t hear me incorrectly…you should absolutely continue to take steps to limit your exposure and contact with others, you should absolutely continue wearing a mask when you go out to public places, you should absolutely continue washing your hands… This virus is still running rampant and the cases in Fort Bend County are still going up, but just because what’s needed from us right now is physical separation, what we also need now more than ever is to stay connected…we just have to use new and innovative ways to do that. We have to put forth the extra effort and pick up the phone, send that text, log in to that Zoom chat… Every Sunday, I tell you that it’s an extra effort to stay connected…I know it is…but every Sunday I also promise you that it’s worth it.
It is worth it.
Last week, we had an incredible Sunday morning conversation where we talked about fears and vulnerability and where we see God at work in the world. It was incredibly moving, and I just want all of you to continue to feel connected during these times. Burnout’s real…I get it. After this, I don’t even want to hear the word “Zoom”…but for now…it’s worth it. I promise you, it’s worth it.
Those voices of fear and anxiety and worry and doubt and scarcity…those aren’t the voice of Jesus the good shepherd. The good shepherd speaks words of comfort…and grace…and love…and safety…and peace. You know the good shepherd because you know the good shepherd’s voice.
The good shepherd leads you beside still waters. The good shepherd makes you to rest in lush verdant pastures. The good shepherd anoints your head with oil and feeds you with rich and good things.
The good shepherd restores your soul.
Given all we have from our good shepherd, how could we not share these gifts? How could we not, like the first disciples in the first communities in Acts, share all things and hold all things in common for the good of all? How could we not share our resources and give to all as any have need?
When we know our life is secure in the loving arms of the good shepherd, we can rest peacefully. And we can invite others into that rest.
Like you’ve found this refreshing oasis in the midst of a wilderness time…invite other sheep to experience that same rest and refreshment.
Knowing that our lives are secure in the loving arms of the good shepherd doesn’t make the fear and worry go away. Knowing our lives are secure in the arms of the good shepherd won’t make this virus any less real or any less deadly. But it will help you find a moment of peace in the midst of so much uncertainty.
You’ll feel it…deep inside yourself…that this, too, shall pass…all will be well…your cup will overflow and you shall dwell in the presence of God your whole life long…you shall have life and life abundant…
The good shepherd cares for the sheep.
The good shepherd guards you’re going out and you’re coming in.
Jump, and frolic, and graze, and rest securely in the safety and love of your shepherd.