RCL A Easter 4
Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, Saint John 10:1-10

If the Church of the Good Shepherd were to have a Patron and a Patronal Feast, the Patron would be Jesus the Good Shepherd, and the Feast would be today. Today is the Sunday each year when we in the Collect of the Day identify Jesus as the Good Shepherd of God’s people and when we ask God that when we hear his voice we may know him and may follow him where he leads.[1]

Before Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire, Christians drawing from the scriptures and using a common image of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders made a symbol, an undetectable symbol, of Jesus Christ. The image, being common, did not incriminate the people possessing it as Christians, but the image became the most common symbol of Jesus before Christian symbols could be made explicit without fear of persecution. We can be grateful to God for the freedom to practice our religion openly and without fear. We are free to gather and to worship in a building dedicated to the Good Shepherd. This freedom itself is a gift of the Good Shepherd.

And in the Gospel today, Jesus distinguishes himself from the thief who breaks into the sheepfold to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Jesus declares, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”[2] The Good Shepherd calls us to life. By virtue of his laying down his life for us and for everyone and by virtue of his resurrection, the Good Shepherd calls us and everyone to live as God first intended us to live before we disobeyed and hid, before we thought for ourselves, and before we replaced God’s guidance about living with our own.

The hard thing for me as I contemplate the Good Shepherd is the recognition that I, to be a lamb wrapped around his shoulders, have to let him sweep me up and put me there. We like to have our own way. I am sure you have noticed this. We join people and organizations whose way, we think, is our own. And while we do this, seeking ourselves and our own way, like sheep without a shepherd, Jesus stands, in his words and in images we selected centuries ago to give him, Jesus stands ready to take us on, ready to take us up and put us in safety itself.

This parish and this building stand for this feature of our experience: that God became Man to take us up and put us on his shoulders in order to take us home. May we, this Easter and forever more, let God do this for us. May we be the creatures God created us to be.

[1] BCP, page 225.

[2] Saint John 10:10.