The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd
We have two well known passages today: Psalm 23 and Jesus’ words on being The Good Shepherd from John’s gospel. Both passages speak to God’s abiding care for creation and us. They also remind us that God’s love extends beyond us to all people. This is especially true in the passage from John where Jesus reminds us that there are sheep from another flock that he is shepherd to.
A reminder that we are called to widen our communities and find ways to share the good news.
A special thanks to everyone who participated in today’s service. Trevor Gillman, Brian MacInness, Rob Lenters, Janet Leadbeater, and Diana Carr.
This morning children and families are encouraged to sing with Rev. Reugen St. Louis and other friends from Camp Kintail.
The Good Shepherd
Years ago on the news program 60 Minutes the singer Paul Simon said that not long after Simon & Garfunkel released the iconic song Mrs. Robinson with its refrain “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” DiMaggio himself contacted Simon to express bafflement as to what that line could possibly mean. After all, DiMaggio had not gone anywhere—why, he was a spokesman for Mr. Coffee now! “He had not yet,” Simon told Ed Bradley, “begun to think of himself as a metaphor.”
Great observation. But then, who does think of him- or herself metaphorically? Wouldn’t we wonder about a co-worker who was known regularly to spout lines like “I am the antibody that protects my family from the virus of secularism” or “I am the oil that keeps our company’s pistons well-lubed”? Who talks that way?
Jesus did. And as C.S. Lewis once observed, a man who spouts such lines as “I am the Light” and “I am a Gate” is either the single most important person you might ever meet or a man as nuts as someone who walks around claiming to be a poached egg. (Scott Hoezee)
So, which one is it?
We recognize Jesus as the single most important person we might meet. Today Jesus reminds us that he is the Good Shepherd. Agricultural references are frequent in the gospels and reflect the reality of the time that Jesus walked the earth. In both readings today, Psalm 23 and John’s gospel, we have images of the shepherd. What comes with images of shepherds is the relationship that they have with their flock.
The parallel we draw is the relationship that God has with us. It is abundantly clear that it is a relationship of love and care. Jesus tells us that he knows us, he can identify each one of us, in the same way that we can identify our own families and loved ones. The relationship is personal, but it isn’t ours alone. Jesus tells us that there are others that also need to hear the good news.
Gennifer Brooks writes, “John directs his hearers to focus their worship on Jesus Christ, their only true guide. But he makes clear that the Body of Christ is incomplete; there are many who have not yet come to the knowledge of Christ and therefore have not taken their place in the beloved community under the sovereignty of Christ.” (Gennifer Brooks)
When we start thinking about who the other sheep are it leads to questions of introspection:
- Who are the Gentiles of our time?
- Who have we not fully welcomed?
- Or perhaps how can we be more welcoming?
Jesus let’s us know that we are called and loved by him, by the Good Shepherd. In the same breath he lets us know that there are others, people we don’t know that Jesus invites to hear the Good News. Our goal is to find it within ourselves to make room for that to happen.
We often identify ourselves as a church family. While this is a good and comforting image, it is also an exclusive image. It says we are set in our membership and can make it difficult for people to penetrate and join the “family”. Sometimes we forget that our family has an uncle or a cousin that no one likes to mention but who shows up at family functions from time to time and upsets the apple cart. We might not like it, but it is family. However, rather than identify us as a church family, I prefer to think of us as a community of faith. The community’s membership is open and fluid.
The concept of community allows us to situate ourselves within our own context. Recognizing the geographic and social location of our community. Of the particular challenges that face us directly as a community of faith, but also the broader issues that exist within our community.
A large part of the work of the church is outreach and mission. Jesus instructs us to help the vulnerable and marginalized within our communities. We do this well through advocacy and direct support, both within our own community here in Cobourg, but also by supporting PWS&D. This allows us to have a global reach, to impact in positive ways communities that are beyond our direct reach.
Giving money and advocating is good, it does make a positive impact on peoples lives. However, it is the easy side of mission and outreach. We can and should feel good about the work we are doing. Brooks argues, “Even churches that are heavily involved in mission and outreach projects beyond their immediate borders are often hesitant to reach out to immediate neighbors and bring them fully into the fold. Too many arms-length or distance projects offer them the security of loving the neighbor without seeing the neighbor. And unfortunately, even when caring for neighbors involves giving access to food and clothing provided by the church, inviting and including the recipients of their ministry as members of the congregation is all too often beyond their ability.” (Gennifer Brooks)
We are good at directly ministering to people. Our soup kitchen has been running and directly impacting the lives of our neighbours, people in our community for over 20 years. We are currently winding down a temporary Warming Room ministry that we’ve run in partnership with Greenwood Coalition and the County. We’ve directly touched and met our neighbours, those within our community who need help. We do this work gladly, where we and others could perhaps work harder is on inviting people inside the doors.
While Covid-19 currently makes that impossible, I wonder what it would look like if each of us spoke more often to our neighbours, those in our community about the impact the community of faith we belong to has on the wider community. Would people be interested in what we are doing? Would they want to get involved? Might we have the courage to invite those who aren’t like us, yet live beside us, into our community?
Are we willing to overcome the issues that divide us: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation? Can we overcome these divides and open our arms a little wider?
On this Mission Awareness Sunday we hear the voice of Jesus say, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Jesus says, “I Am the Good Shepherd.” Let’s look for opportunities to expand the flock, widen our community and enrich our own experience. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
Donate to St. Andrew's
Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website.