10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes[a] it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
One of our favorite places to hang out is right down the street from our church, Fibonacci’s Brewery. They have a great outdoor garden to sit in with lights throughout the trees and great fire pits. Wonderful place for conversations. They also have a small farm with beehives, goats, and sheep. Not many, but enough. You can see that it’s a pretty peaceful place.
Sheep are interesting. I’ve shared the story before of our family staying in a huge manor house on an English estate. The house overlooked fields of sheep. The sheep would go from one field to the next throughout the day.
I tell you this because our passages this morning are about sheeps and shepherds. I read once that you cannot very easily approach sheep…they are sheepish if you will. They aren’t easy to heard either, unless you are their shepherd. Shepherds, especially in Jesus’ time, spent a lot of time with sheep. Shepherds had a way of gathering sheep, by simply calling them out. Sheep will follow the shepherd because they recognize the shepherd’s voice. They trust that voice.
In this passage, we are sheep, you and I together. It’s obviously a metaphor, but much like the beauty of the landscape at Penshurst, that English estate, and Fibonacci’s, we are live together in a beautiful world. We also produce a lot of smelly and messiness. Our relationships with each other are filled with craziness at times, we don’t always follow or lead each other well. There are dangers around us, and sometimes there are other forces out there, thieves such as depression, loneliness, selfishness, pride, or addictions, or folks not being the best version of themselves, or fully understanding themselves or others that come in the middle of darkness as it says in John 10:10 that kill and destroy the lives that we were called to live.
There are also systems in this world that want to steal and destroy our lives…to make us less than human, to distrust, live in fear or anger. These systems have voices, you hear them in media and from many politicians and persons who have power and/or wealth and want to protect their status. That’s been true throughout history really. But those voices of systems of the world diminish us.
We often recognize the voice of Jesus through others. Maybe we literally hear words from Jesus through others such as a speaker, or maybe even a preacher. Or maybe we recognize the voice of God through something we read, or a song we hear. Maybe it’s listening to our neighbors, finding their gifts, and partnering together for the common good like our after prom team last week. Or, maybe it’s seeing someone else practice charity through actions or giving themselves away.
We know it when we see it and hear it though, especially as we train our eyes and ears to see and recognize the true shepherd.
So, let’s listen to the voice of the Shepherd, let’s amplify Jesus’ voice over the old voices that are dying and trying to take us all down with them, let’s love each other well, and let’s play in the fields of the neighborhood around this church, as well as the neighborhoods in which we live in Cincinnati, and the world. Let’s work towards being the diverse, yet unified flock God’s marked us out to be…we can do this, we can believe in each other as my grandfather did with me and God does with us, trusting each other, loving each other, and growing in the ways that God intends in the process.