Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2: 42-47
1 Peter 2:19-25
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one whose voice we know,
who calls us by name. Amen
The lectionary gives us a lot of sheep today,
sheep and shepherds.
It’s an image found all throughout the Bible,
the Israelites were people who cared for sheep,
Jacob spent many years looking after his father in law’s flock,
David was only anointed king
after he was called in from the fields where he was watching the sheep,
shepherd was a common image used for kings and God.
Caring for sheep lay at the foundation of society.
Jesus, a good son of Israel
continues in the tradition
as he teaches his disciples
about what kind of messiah he is
using the images of the Shepherd and the gate.
As the Shepherd
Jesus spends time with his sheep
knowing each of them by name,
they learn the sound of his voice
and will follow him
because he has earned their trust through their time together,
leading them out of the sheepfold,
watching over them
showing them where there is food and water.
Jesus comes and spends time with his people,
he gets to know them each by name,
they follow him because he has earned their trust.
As the gate Jesus protects the sheep.
A gate is most effective both open and closed
depending on the time of day.
a closed gate is an important part of keeping the sheep safe,
a closed gate gathers the sheep together
and prevents wild animals from coming in.
During the day the gate is opened
to allow the sheep out to seek nourishment
guided by the shepherd.
Jesus both gathers in his people for their protection
as well as sends them out
depending on the what is most needed at the time.
There are times when we need to be gathered together as Jesus’ flock
and there are times when we need to go out,
guided by the shepherd into the world.
The disciples are confused by Jesus’ teaching
but in the end he says it all boils down to this:
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”
We get a glimpse of this with the shepherd and the gate,
the protection at night,
the guidance to nourishment during the day
the right thing for the right time
But what does Jesus mean by “abundant life”?
While we might be tempted
to think about abundance as something quantifiable,
a long life, health, or many possessions
with Jesus affluence does not equal abundance,
over and over Jesus has preached
that his followers must give up their possessions,
he has spent more time with those who have nothing
over those who have everything,
stuff is not what Jesus is talking about
when he proclaims that he has come to bring abundant life,
but rather abundant life
is life lived in the presence of God, w
ho knows our name
whose voice we recognize.
Nowhere do we get a better picture of this abundant life
than in the images of the beloved Psalm 23.
Whether it is in green pastures, beside still waters,
the shadow of the valley of death or the presence of enemies,
God is present alongside the psalmist
who wants for nothing
because God is there with the right thing at the right time
providing safe places to rest, guidance in unsure times,
comfort when things could get scary, blessing in the presence of enemies,
through whatever life brings.
The Bible never promises that life will be easy,
in fact most of its pages bear witness
to the difficult times of the people throughout the ages
but God is always there with the right thing at the right time.
Jesus continues in the tradition of his Father,
he never promises that life will be easy,
in fact there are times he tells the disciples
that there are difficult roads ahead,
but he promises to be with them,
send them an advocate to guide and comfort during those times,
to know their name,
so that life will be abundant.
Abundant life is what we want for everyone
but especially our graduates
as they enter a new phase of life
so far we have walked alongside them,
been there to guide them and cheer them on,
care for them when they get sick,
now we are opening the gate of the sheepfold
and letting them out on their own,
trusting that they have learned to distinguish the voice of the shepherd
over the voices of others who would lead them astray,
knowing that wherever they go
God will be with them,
guiding, comforting and calling them by name.
is life lived in the presence of God,
with the Lord as our Shepherd
we shall not be in want,
God knows our name
and goes with us on the journey of life,
guiding, restoring, comforting, blessing
whether we are in green pastures or the valley of the shadow of death,
life with God is abundant. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.